March 2, 2018 / 2:04 PM / 3 months ago

Tajik opposition leader says removed from Interpol wanted list

ALMATY (Reuters) - Interpol has removed the leader of a banned Tajik Islamist party from its wanted list, he said, in a setback for the Dushanbe government’s efforts to portray its opponents as militants.

Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), told Reuters by telephone that the removal of the Interpol “Red Notice” would allow him to work more actively on building an opposition coalition.

The mostly Muslim former Soviet republic banned the IRPT in 2015, accusing it of being behind a failed coup and prompting a number of party leaders and activists, including Kabiri, to leave the country.

The IRPT denies being involved in attempts to topple the government.

According to Kabiri, its aim is to act as a check on any attempts by President Imomali Rakhmon to extend his powers or pass them on to family members.

Kabiri, now based in Western Europe, said his plan was “to create a coalition of moderate, secular and religious groups” in order to effect change in the impoverished nation bordering Afghanistan, “only by peaceful and legitimate means”.

Alex Mik, campaigns and communications manager at the Fair Trials rights group which helped Kabiri liase with Interpol, said the relatively swift resolution of his case was a result of reforms implemented by the international police body to prevent abuse of its system.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach an Interpol spokeswoman for comment.

Kabiri’s Red Notice was issued in September 2016. He said about 40 more IRPT members in exile still had such warrants active against them.

“It obviously has massive implications for your reputation,” Mik said. “Having your face plastered on the list of internationally wanted people isn’t going to help your cause.”

Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry said it was unaware of the Red Notice for Kabiri being deleted.

Rakhmon, 65, has been in power since 1992, the first five years of his rule marked by a civil war with an armed opposition that included factions ranging from liberal democrats to Islamists.

IRPT founders were among those fighting government forces , and in 2000 accused Rakhmon of violating a 1997 peace agreement in order to boost his powers.

In January 2017, Rakhmon appointed his eldest son, 30-year-old Rustam Imomali, mayor of the capital Dushanbe, fuelling prompting speculation he was grooming him as his successor.

Rakhmon’s current term in office ends in 2020.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by John Stonestreet

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