Uzbek citizen arrested in Russia on murder charge disappears

The fate of an Uzbek man, Sirozhiddin Matkarimov, who was arrested by special forces in Russia ten days ago on suspicion of terrorism and murder, is still unknown.

The Russian Interior Ministry press service announced on 5th March that their forces had detained a 34-year-old native of Uzbekistan, Sirozhiddin Matkarimov, who is suspected of murder.

According to the Russian police, and with reference to statements made by their Uzbek counterparts, Matkarimov “is an active participant in international terrorist organisation, which is believed to have carried out terrorist acts within Russian, many European countries, the US and Central Asia”.

The Russian police statement also alleges that on 16 October 2007, Matkarimov “acting according to his ideological convictions, cut his wife’s throat then evaded justice”. Under Uzbekistan’s criminal code, this case was then subject to international crime detection.

In Moscow, Russian law-enforcers say, Matkarimov lived with false identity documents, calling himself Jahangir Akbarov, and worked as a private-hire taxi driver.

It was initially reported that Matkarimov would be extradited to Uzbekistan, although human rights activists doubted this would happen.

“This is a very strange case,” says Bakhrom Khamroev, President of the Society of Central Asian Political Emigrés. “Since this communication was released we can find no trace of Matkarimov and noone can give us any information about him. It is likely that he is still in Russia and that they are trying to ‘frame’ him for some sort of ‘extremist activity’.”

According to Khamroev, Russian security forces sometimes operate by ‘snatching’ an Uzbek citizen then trying to intimidate them with threats of extradition.

“They show films of how they will be tortured by the security agents in Uzbekistan and that person instantly breaks down. To my knowledge this is how the Russian Federation seeks out and neutralises ‘Islamist extremists’, the human rights campaigner says.

This is a very strange case; since this communication was released we can find no trace of Matkarimov and noone can give us any information about him

There is confusion as to Matkarimov’s alleged membership of an ‘international terrorist organisation’. The Russian special forces have not named the organisation with which Sirozhiddin is said to have been involved.

Secondly, Matkarimov’s former acquaintances have confirmed that he did kill his wife, but not because of any ideological convictions but because he was drunk (whereas if he were very religious he would not drink alcohol).