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Outrage Over Beating Of Mistress Forces Tajik President's Son To Order Probe Into 'Influential' Couple


Aziza Davlatova (left) was arrested earlier this month along with her husband, Lutfullo Davlatov (right), in connection with the brutal beating of Madina Muhammadjonova (center)

In Tajikistan, where the rich and powerful often evade justice, prosecutors initially closed a criminal case without even sending it to trial despite the victim being left in coma.

A well-connected woman in Dushanbe is facing up to 15 years in prison for the attempted murder of her husband's alleged second wife in a case being closely watched by Tajiks.

Aziza Davlatova was arrested earlier this month along with her husband, Lutfullo Davlatov, who is charged with "torture," punishable by up to seven years in jail if found guilty in the August 25 attack. Davlatov is the son of a former lawmaker, who has also served as an adviser to authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon.

The initial decision to close the case, however, backfired after women’s rights activists took to social media to demand justice for the victim, 32-year-old Madina Muhammadjonova. They shared photos showing the victim’s horrific injuries and demanded answers from officials.

Outraged Dushanbe residents signed an open letter about the case to Rahmon and his son, Rustam Emomali, who is mayor of Dushanbe, Senate chairman, and heir apparent to his father as Tajik leader.

Rustam Emomali (file photo)
Rustam Emomali (file photo)

Rustam Emomali ordered a new probe that saw the couple being arrested and formally charged. Two high-ranked officers from the city's police and prosecutors' office were also dismissed from their posts for allegedly for mishandling the case.

Horrific Attack

Muhammadjonova was admitted to hospital on August 26 "unconscious, with grave injuries" and apparent signs of strangulation, according to two doctors at the Shifobakhsh medical facility.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the doctors said Muhammadjonova suffered from brain damage due to a lack of oxygen as the result of strangulation. The medics said they "don't know" if she will ever fully recover.

Muhammadjonova was allegedly attacked by Davlatova, who accused the victim of having a romantic relationship with her husband for more than two years.

Madina Muhammadjonova had been working as an accountant under Lutfullo Davlatov at a mobile-telephone company until he fired her, allegedly at his wife's behest.
Madina Muhammadjonova had been working as an accountant under Lutfullo Davlatov at a mobile-telephone company until he fired her, allegedly at his wife's behest.

Sources close to both families described Muhammadjonova as "the second wife" of Davlatov, 47, who works as a manager at one of the city branches of MegaFon, a major mobile phone operator in Tajikistan. Having a second wife is not uncommon in Tajikistan despite polygamy being banned in the Central Asian country.

Muhammadjonova worked as an accountant at the same MegaFon branch until the summer when Davlatov fired her -- allegedly under pressure from his wife.

Davlatov's family is said to have high-placed political connections through his father, Davlatali Davlatzoda, a founder and the former first deputy chairman of President Rahmon's People's Democratic Party. He has held many other high-profile posts in Rahmon's government.

Davlatzoda, 74, told RFE/RL that it was "jealousy" that drove his daughter-in-law to assault the other woman and that she must be held accountable.

"However, I don't know what my son is being accused of," Davlatzoda said. "He was in Dushanbe at the time of the assault, which occurred outside the city."

It remains unclear if there are other suspects in the case.

Officials Fired For Mishandling

A statement by the Prosecutor-General's Office on November 1 acknowledged that the case "was brought to the attention" of the president, parliament, and prosecutor-general by the "media."

It didn't say why the case was initially dropped by police and prosecutors.

The victim's mother had filed a formal complaint with Dushanbe's Sino district police office shortly after the attack. However, just days later a deputy district prosecutor, Suhrob Salimzoda, closed the case using a newly approved mass amnesty law as a pretext.

Salimzoda and district police chief Zafar Ismoilzoda were fired in early November. Sources close to law-enforcement agencies told RFE/RL that they lost their jobs for mishandling Muhammadjonova's probe.

But one official who described himself as Salimzoda's friend claims that the decision to drop the case "had come from high-placed people." Salimzoda had merely followed an instruction, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

No date has been set for trial as the case has become one of the most high-profile court proceedings in Tajikistan.

Corruption is rife in the country's criminal justice system, paving the way for wealthy and influential people to often try to escape justice. Using various amnesties is among the methods for many to shorten their prison terms or have their cases dropped altogether.

But with the public interest and scrutiny surrounding Muhammadjonova's case, it is not going to be easy for the perpetrators to get away with this crime.

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    Khiromon Baqozoda

    Khiromon Baqozoda is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL's Tajik Service in Prague.

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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the region’s ongoing struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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