Asia

Afghan warrants for Vice-President Dostum's 'sex assault' guards

General Abdul Rashid Dostum File photo
Image caption Gen Dostum joined Afghanistan's national unity government in 2014

Afghan authorities have issued warrants for the arrest of nine bodyguards of Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum over allegations that they physically and sexually assaulted a political rival.

The attorney general's office says the men have ignored three summonses to appear for questioning.

The alleged victim, Ahmad Eshchi, says he was kidnapped and assaulted at the vice-president's residence in November.

General Dostum, a former warlord, denies the claims.

He has also failed to respond to attempts to question him.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ahmad Eshchi showed reporters an injury on his leg

Mr Eshchi, the former governor of Gen Dostum's home province of Jowzjan in the north, was taken by the vice-president's men from a sporting event in the province on 24 November.

He said the vice-president and 10 other men assaulted him for five days.

He described the alleged abuse in graphic detail, although his account cannot be independently verified.

"He ordered his eight guards to undress me. They even [pulled] off my trousers," Mr Eshchi told BBC Afghan.

A Dostum spokesman called the allegations "a provocation", and said Mr Eshchi had been detained not by him, but by the country's intelligence service.

Gen Dostum is an ethnic Uzbek blamed for some of the worst atrocities in Afghanistan's long-running civil war. He joined the country's national unity government in 2014.

It was seen as a controversial move but one that could signal some kind of reconciliation, given his ability to secure the confidence of the Uzbek minority.

The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has promised a thorough investigation into the accusations of sexual assault. Mr Ghani is under pressure to show he takes allegations of human rights abuse and torture seriously.

What happens now is unclear.

Gen Dostum's office says he has legal standing similar to the president, and a two-thirds majority in parliament would be required to remove him from his post.

But the attorney general's office says he should be treated like any other citizen.

The BBC's Dawood Azami in Kabul says Gen Dostum is a powerful figure, with a lot of support among ethnic Uzbeks, so the government is moving slowly and cautiously.

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