Afghanistan's attorney general ordered the arrest of nine of First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum's bodyguards on charges related to the alleged abduction and sexual assault of a political rival, who accused the vice president of sodomizing him with a rifle.
Dostum has denied the accusations. His office called them a baseless effort to defame the vice president, and said it would cooperate with a government investigation.
The arrest warrants for the bodyguards were issued on Monday after the men ignored three summonses to appear before Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi for questioning, the attorney general said.
Dostum, a powerful former warlord, last week also didn't appear after his third summons regarding the allegations. According to Afghan law he could be suspended from his position and put under house arrest for his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, Hamidi said.
Dostum hasn't been charged with any crime in the case.
The case is testing the ability of the Afghan government and judiciary to investigate and potentially prosecute a powerful senior official.
"This is highly politicized case involving a very powerful individual that can do anything," said an Afghan official. "Nobody would want to upset Dostum."
His accuser, Ahmad Eshchi is the former governor of northern Jawzjan province. He said that on Dostum's orders he was abducted in November and sodomized with an AK-47 rifle by the vice president and his bodyguards.
The men kidnapped Eshchi at a sporting event in Jawzjan and held him captive for several days, Eshchi said.
He said Dostum ordered his abduction because he was afraid of Eshchi's growing popularity with Afghanistan's Uzbek minority.
The legal process ahead is in dispute. The vice president's office says that Dostum has the same legal standing as the president, and that it would require two-thirds of parliament to vote to remove him from office.
Yet the attorney general and the president's office say Dostum would be subject to prosecution and punishment just as any other citizen.
"This is not a political matter but a legal case and will be dealt transparently and according to the Afghan law," said a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani. "Nobody is beyond the law."