UZBEKISTAN: Being a devout Muslim a crime?
Two groups of Muslims, detained respectively just before and just after the March/April terrorist attacks, are now being tried in southern Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The authorities state that leaflets of the banned Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir party and drugs were found in the homes of the people being tried, but a local human rights activist insists to Forum 18 that this evidence was planted, and that their only "crime" was to be devout Muslims. Relatives claim that those accused were subjected to brutal treatment during questioning. Although the trials are officially open to the public, both journalists and human rights activists have been refused admittance.
The Karshi Muslims were arrested at the beginning of March (before the terrorist attacks in that month), while the Kamashi Muslims were arrested on 4 April, immediately after the series of terrorist attacks at the end of March and beginning of April in Uzbekistan (see F18News 13 April http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=298 and 4 June 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=334).
The Muslims are accused of breaking six articles of the criminal code: Article 155 (terrorism), Article 156 (inciting national, racial or religious hatred), Article 159 (undermining the constitutional basis of the republic of Uzbekistan), Article 242 (forming criminal groups) Article 244-1 (composing and distributing documents that present a public threat) and Article 242-1 (establishing, leading or participating in religious, separatist or fundamentalist organisations).
Five court examinations have already been conducted into the cases of each group. According to close relatives of the accused, the detainees were constantly subjected to blows and brutal treatment during questioning. For example, during the court hearing on 28 July, detainee Azim Kambarov, from Kamashi district, told Judge Nurilla Ziyadullayev that he had been severely beaten during the investigation, and his false teeth had been smashed several months previously.
It is telling that although both legal hearings are officially open to the public, both journalists and human rights activists have been refused admittance. For example, on 28 July, during the court case against the Kamashi group, Judge Ziyadullayev ordered that Khamrokula Karshiyeva, a correspondent for the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, be refused entry to the courtroom.
Forum 18's attempts to obtain information from official sources on 4 August were in vain. When telephoning the court and prosecutor's office for Kashkadarya region, Forum 18 had scarcely finished introducing itself before officials immediately hung up.
For more background information see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=105
A printer-friendly map of Uzbekistan is available at
4 August 2004
Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishna devotees, Muslims and independent human rights groups Forum 18 News Service has spoken to all agree that, in marked contrast to the situation after the March/April terrorist attacks, the authorities reactions after the most recent terrorist bombings have not caused a substantial deterioration in the religious freedom situation.
30 July 2004
In what he describes as "a vicious circle", Baptist Vsevolod Kalinin has again been refused a residence permit to live in his own home in the capital Tashkent, Forum 18 News Service has been told. In an open court hearing, a representative of the commission of the Tashkent city administration responsible for residence permits said that Kalinin's religious convictions were the main reason for refusing him a residence permit. It is unusual for Uzbek authorities to take a close interest in residential addresses, but Kalinin has since 2002 been the target of close scrutiny by authorities in Tashkent. As well as visits from the police, a military recruitment office has told Kalinin that he could be detained while his place of residence was checked. All Kalinin's appeals, including to Uzbek president Karimov, are met with the reply that he should appeal again to the commission which denied him a residence permit.
29 July 2004
Armed NSS secret police have raided the home of Normurod Zhumaev, a doctor in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, arrested him and confiscated Muslim religious literature and computer equipment, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. He is still under arrest and has been charged under an article of the criminal code which punishes "the creation or leadership of, or participation in, religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organisations". His wife says that he did lead studies of the Koran with a group of his friends, but insists to Forum 18 that the small group did not discuss politics. It is possible that Zhumaev may have attracted the NSS's attention because, like his family, he is a notably devout Muslim and a friend of an imam who was arrested in April.