A private jet that Afghan officials suspected was bringing back Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum from Turkey has been turned away when it tried to land in a northern city, officials say.
Afghan officials told news agencies on Tuesday that a private jet flying to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, was ordered to fly to the capital, Kabul, for checks late on Monday following indications that Dostum, 63, was trying to return to the country.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Dostum’s plane diverted to Turkmenistan.
Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former general, flew to Turkey in May after he was accused of ordering the detention and torture of a political rival.
He has denied the accusations, and a spokesman said he left Afghanistan for medical treatment.
A senior official from Dostum’s Junbish party, denied that he had tried to enter Afghanistan, saying that a guest of Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh province, had been due to land in Mazar but had gone to Turkmenistan because of technical issues.
“If General Dostum wants to come to Afghanistan, no power can stop him because he is Afghanistan’s vice president,” said Junbish deputy head Shujauddin Shuja.
Dostum has not been formally charged with any offence.
However, hundreds of Dostum’s supporters, some carrying posters with slogans like “Welcome back our dear leader!”, were waiting in Mazar-i-Sharif, the closest big city to Dostum’s home region of Jawzjan, on the border with Turkmenistan, the Reuters news agency reported.
Raess Abdul Khaliq, a council member for the northern Balkh province, told DPA news agency that the plane was denied permission to land after Dostum refused to go to Kabul.
It is not clear why the government denied the jet permission to land there.
A spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support force, which maintains troops at the Mazar-i-Sharif airport under German command, said international officials had no role in turning the aircraft away.
Dostum’s relations with President Ashraf Ghani have been tense, and he has formed an opposition alliance with Noor.
The allegations against Dostum come from Ahmad Ishchi, who said he was held hostage for five days in a private compound, where he was allegedly beaten and raped on Dostum’s orders.
Dostum had evaded questioning after Afghanistan’s attorney general launched an investigation by hiding in his palace in central Kabul, guarded by armed men.
Nobody was arrested or charged despite reports that medical evidence backed Ishchi’s claims of abuse.
In 2008, Dostum went into exile in Turkey after facing similar allegations that he ordered the abduction and torture of another political rival.