KABUL, Afghanistan – After more than a year in exile, General Abdul Rashid Dostum returned to his homeland Afghanistan on Sunday for being charged with rape and kidnapping, allegations of brutality, human rights abuses and the murder of his first wife.
General Dostum also remains the country's first vice president.
An official government delegation met him at Kabul International Airport on Sunday, and despite the charges against him, they gave him a safe passage – not to jail, but to his home, in an agreement negotiated by President Ashraf Ghani, according to Afghan officials was after the widespread protests and unrest among its Uzbek fellow travelers.
Thousands of followers of General Dostum gathered in front of his vice presidential office in downtown Kabul to aid his return. "He is a leader who has millions of followers," said Mullah Mohammad Qasim. "All these allegations against him are groundless lies."
Shortly after General Dostum's entourage left the airport, a suicide bomber exploded on the heavily guarded roundabout at the airport entrance, killing 11 and wounding 40 others, including security officials, according to health officials and police officers.
The government insisted that the criminal charges remained active even though they were from November 2016 and did not result in any arrests. General Dostum and nine of his bodyguards are accused of kidnapping a political opponent Ahmad Ishchi, and repeatedly beat him and rape him.
"His case will be there – it's a personal problem, I do not know what's going to happen," said Shah Hussain Murtazawi, Mr. Ghani's deputy spokesman.
General Dostum's return from exile is the latest episode in the turbulent career of the Uzbekistani leader, an ignorant former communist executor who became a warlord at one point in every side of Afghanistan's long war, including the Taliban.
He is being charged with war crimes, including the permission of his men Kill thousands of Taliban prisoners in locked truck containers.
The longtime protégé of the Central Intelligence Agency, which oversaw and armed him, has proven to be a strong political actor in recent years in the Afghan elections and has been able to deliver his small but united Uzbek minority as a four million-strong bloc. Mr. Ghani accepted him as a runner-up in 2014, although he had previously described him as "known murderer. "
General Dostum's new political respectability, however, did little to slow his behavior. After the election, he would still occasionally lead his private militia into battle, riding in his personal Humvee with two dwarf bodyguards on his hood and drinking alcohol in a country where alcohol is banned. And he is widely accused of continuing to use rape to subdue his enemies and occasionally his allies.
His exile to Turkey was negotiated with the help of diplomats to avoid the riots that would most likely have arisen if he was charged with rape. But the riots in northern Afghanistan, where General Dostum has many followers and allies, happen nonetheless: many Uzbeks are upset over the arrest of a powerful Nordic warlord and Dostum's ally by the government, Nizamuddin Qaisari and his bodyguards. Video of government forces violently abusing his bodyguards became public, fueling protests and more outrage.
Government officials insist that Mr. Qaisari will remain in custody, but General Dostum's return is intended to reassure his followers.
Several people have come forward to report on violence and sexual abuse of General Dostum, and diplomats and cables from the American Embassy, published by WikiLeaks, have provided even more detailed information.
A former personal chauffeur of General Dostum, Saleh Mohammad Faizi, was interviewed by the New York Times in refugee housing in Ebensee, Austria, where the authorities granted him asylum because he was threatened by the general he served for 23 years. He explicitly gave permission to be identified and photographed when he made his allegations.
He said he had beaten General Dostum when he refused to marry the general's girlfriend, whom he described as a 15-year-old girl, to offer Dostum a discreet way to see her. General Dostum already had two women who did not agree that he would take a third, Faizi said.
Angered by the refusal of Mr. Faizi, General Dostum, with the help of his bodyguard, repeatedly raped Mr. Faizi for several days, he said and finally chained him to his lip – the scar is still visible – inside the wall of a truck container. Mr. Faizi said that after a C.I.A. Team won its publication in 2013; He later fled the country.
Mr. Faizi also accused General Dostum of killing his first wife, Khadija, as well as numerous rape of political opponents and underage boys and girls. "I know who killed him and when and where he laid the bodies," he said.
While some diplomats and government officials have confirmed Mr. Faizi's report on how he was treated by General Dostum, there is no independent confirmation of his charges of numerous other rapes and murders.
The episode in which Mr. Ishchi participated was not until November 2016, and Mr. Ishchi made a public statement that he was raped by Dostum's bodyguards by order of the general. In the interview, Mr. Ishchi claimed that General Dostum had attempted to rape him, but was unable to physically carry out the act. Instead, photos were taken to simulate the rape to humiliate Mr. Ishchi.
Akbar Bai, head of the Turkish Council of Afghanistan, a group representing Uzbeks and others speaking Turkish, was reportedly attacked by General Dostum. He telephoned Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, where he has business interests, an attack reported by a US Embassy cable published by WikiLeaks, calling the cable "the last of Dostum's drunken seizures by challenging his feudal authority. "
This American diplomatic cable also reported that General Dostum beat the first deputy chairman of his Junbesh party, Mohammad Ismael Munshi, in 2007, resulting in "several broken bones and severe head injuries."
"This thug has caused the murder of hundreds of thousands of people since the time of the Communists and has raped many people, men, women, even young girls and boys," Mr. Bai said. "Today he is the second man in the country, this person is the greatest butcher and criminal in the world, he should not be free – he should be housed in The Hague."
The first wife of General Dostum, Khadija, was killed more than 20 years ago. Mr. Faizi, the former chauffeur, said he was on duty one night when the wife caught General Dostum having sex with a minor girl. After a bitter argument between the couple, Mr. Faizi said, General Dostum drove off, leaving one of his bodyguards to "take care of them."
Later he called him in the walkie-talkie and said, "It's done, the mission was done as directed," Mr. Faizi said, and when they returned to the family home, Khadija was shot dead with an AK-47 and by mistake, she was the mother of the four oldest of General Dostum's nine children.
Mr. Faizi claimed that General Dostum's personal secretary, Jalil Sarbaz, had called him in Austria and threatened his family when talking to the news media about the Uzbek leader.
Mr Sarbaz denies that, however. "We have no contact with him," he said. "His claims are not true, what he says is a lie."
Brian Glyn Williams, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, who wrote a generally admiring biography of General Dostum, "The last warlord, "she raised the question of how she had died during an interview with his subject." It was almost dangerous. He got angry and stormed off the table and did not come back for a week, "Mr. Williams said.
General Dostum denied being behind her death, and finally told his version of the events, the author said: The general told him that Khadija had been cleaning her house where several AK-47s were hidden. She accidentally stumbled with a broom behind a refrigerator, said General Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams wrote about the general's report: "As the gun caught on its broom and fell sideways to it, a spool behind the refrigerator released the trigger of the deadly automatic weapon, he said, and it went off with a blast from the refrigerator and fired several shots that made Khadija and her servants scream in panic. "When Khadija jumped away, she was shot in the chest." Twice.
General Dostum's spokesmen have dismissed all allegations against him as mixtures of his political opponents.
Bashir Ahmad Tahyanj called Mr. Ishchi's rape charge absurd and said it was "a completely false claim."
"At that age, the general – a respected person, the first vice president – and Ishchi, also a 60-year-old who accepts wisdom and logic that he would rape him?" Mr Tahyanj said.