Tajik opposition leader killed in Istanbul after assassination warning

Tajik opposition leader killed in Istanbul after assassination warning

Fırat Alkaç / Nerdun Hacıoğlu - ISTANBUL / MOSCOW
Tajik opposition leader killed in Istanbul after assassination warning Tajik opposition leader Umarali Kuvatov was killed in a gun attack in Istanbul late on March 5, days after he warned Turkish authorities of a possible assassination and asked to be given a security detail.

Kuvatov, the leader of Group 24, an opposition movement in Tajikistan, was reportedly walking on the street in the Fatih district after having dinner at his friend’s house when an unknown assailant shot him in the head.

The attacker fled after the incident, while police and paramedics were immediately dispatched to the scene.

An operation has been launched into Kuvatov’s killing by the security forces’ anti-terror branch, and Kuvatov’s body was sent to the forensics department for an autopsy.

Hürriyet has learned that Kuvatov was arrested on an alleged visa violation in Turkey on Dec. 20, 2014. He was released on Feb. 3, 2015. In his testimony at a police station in Istanbul, Kuvatov claimed that Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon wanted him dead due to his knowledge of the leader's "secret dealings" he learned when he was a business partner of Rahman's son-in-law. Kuvatov asked Turkish authorities to not deport him and instead provide him a bodyguard.

After the murder, Turkish police found out that a Tajik man named "Süleyman" came to Istanbul two weeks ago and met Kuvatov on March 5. According to the initial police findings" "Süleyman" attempted to kill Kuvatov by poisoning his food during the dinner they had. When the poison did not work, he allegedly called a hit man, who then shot deat Kuvatov in the street by firing at his neck. Security forces have not been able to find Süleyman or the hit man yet, a police source told Hürriyet.

Speaking to EurasiaNet.org in January, economist Khojimuhamad Umarov of Tajikistan’s Academy of Sciences had linked Kuvatov’s arrest in Turkey to the Turkish government’s fight against its ally-turned-nemesis Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamic scholar whose followers wield influence among Turkish civil servants and run a global network of schools. 

Kuvatov was arrested in Istanbul, shortly before the Tajik education minister announced that the license of Gülen-linked schools would not be renewed if they do not adopt a charitable operational model.

“If they close the Turkish schools in exchange for Kuvatov, it would be very thoughtless,” Umarov was quoted as saying by EurasiaNet.org.