Tajik Police Arrest 3 in Murder of Man Dressed as ‘Santa Claus’

Posted January 3rd, 2012 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Police in Tajikistan have arrested three suspects in the murder of a young man dressed as Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, who by tradition brings children presents at New Year.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday the three detainees are students at Tajik National University and that religious motives were behind the murder of Parviz Davlatbekov.

A crowd of about 30 people attacked the 24-year-old and stabbed him with a knife as he visited relatives early Monday in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. Officials say he later died in the hospital of his injuries.

The murder is the subject of Tajik social networking websites, many of which are linking the crime to religious fanaticism.

The Central Asian country's spiritual leader, Saidmukarram Abdukodirzoda, said in December that customs such as decorating the New Year tree, dancing and playing games are alien to Tajik culture and contradict the laws of Islam.

Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, is officially secular, but the majority of its population is Muslim.