Uzbekistan puts 15 'terrorists' on trial for Andijan atrocity

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow 
Published: 21 September 2005

Uzbekistan's authoritarian government has begun a
well-organised campaign to rehabilitate its damaged
international reputation, inaugurating a trial which
looks likely to find that it did not massacre up to
700 of its own civilians last May. 

The massacre in Andijan shocked the world and saw the
hardline regime of Islam Karimov become a pariah state

Human rights campaigners claimed that up to 700 mostly
unarmed civilians were mown down indiscriminately by
Uzbek security forces anxious to clamp down on an
anti-government demonstration which had turned

Mr Karimov had a different version. He said that 187
people were killed, and blamed Islamist extremists who
he accused of plotting to overthrow his government to
establish a central Asian caliphate.

Most of those killed were, he claimed, "terrorists"
who had long-planned his overthrow with the help of
foreign extremists and radical Islamist groups such as
Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,
and the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan. Yesterday in
the Uzbek capital Tashkent, a trial started of 15 of
the men he accuses of being terrorists. Looking dazed
and glum, all pleaded guilty.

Human rights groups alleged the men had been
intimidated and forced into making confessions.

The men listened as the court was told how they had
allegedly executed hostages and used civilians as
human shields. They looked impassive as they were
accused of a charges ranging from murder and rioting
to being members of banned Islamist groups.

An Uzbek rights activist, Surat Ikramov, cast doubt on
the legitimacy of the pleas, however, saying he
believed the men had been tortured. "The authorities
want to demonstrate at all costs that it was a terror
attack, not a demonstration," said Mr Ikramov.

He said Andijan residents had been cowed into keeping
quiet. "Those who suffered are forced to remain
silent, and there's nobody else to talk."

The defendants' relatives were barred from the
courtroom, in stark contrast to relatives of police
and officials who were killed during the uprising who
had been specially bussed in.

The testimony against them was damning. Sotiboldi
Jalolov, whose 29-year-old son, a police officer, was
shot by protesters, said he did not understand why
"those terrorists attacked our young republic".
Bakhtiyor Muradov, an official with the regional
administration in Andijan, described how he was
brutally beaten by one of the defendants while being
held hostage. "They tortured and killed many other
hostages," he said. "It was horrible."

Prosecutors said the men had been trained in
neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and received funding from
abroad - including from supporters in the Russian
cities of Omsk and Ivanovo.

Prosecutors also accused Western reporters of helping
the rebels by exaggerating the support they had and by
casting their action as a peaceful demonstration.

Deputy Prosecutor General Anvar Nabiyev told the court
that the extremist groups had "used so-called human
rights organisations and foreign media to denounce
Uzbekistan and blacken the activities of the Uzbek

Mr Karimov has firmly rejected calls for an
international inquiry into the incident. Since the
massacre he has become closer to Russia and China, but
has seen his relations with the US deteriorate. 


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