Tajik Authorities Say They Aren't Looking For Opposition Leader, Dispute Search Request Claims

By RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- Tajik authorities say they have yet to launch an official search for opposition leader Mahmurod Odinaev, disputing a claim by relatives that a request to do so has been filed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusratullo Mahmudzoda said on December 2 that Odinaev, deputy chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party, has not been officially placed on the missing persons list because police did not receive a request from his relatives.

Relatives of Odinaev, who hasn't been seen since November 20, told RFE/RL that he went missing days after he placed a post on Facebook asking Dushanbe Mayor Rustam Emomali to allow him and his party's activists to stage a protest over food price hikes.

According to the relatives, they officially turned to police several times, asking law enforcement officers to find the missing politician. Odinaev's relatives also said police questioned them regarding the opposition figure's mysterious disappearance.

Last week, the Interior Ministry said Odinaev’s son, Shaihmuslihiddin Rizoev, was charged with hooliganism over his alleged involvement in a brawl.

Earlier in October, Odinaev said that unknown attackers had severely beaten his son, adding that the assault was a part of a pressure campaign being imposed on him for his political activities.

The Social Democratic Party is the only opposition party functioning in Tajikistan currently.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has tightly ruled the former Soviet republic since 1992, has been criticized for what international human rights groups say is an increasing disregard for political pluralism, civil society, and religious freedoms.