UZBEKISTAN: Police knew search results before they searched
In the latest series of trials of Muslims, apparently simply because they are devout Muslims, ten men have been sentenced to jail terms of between 10 and 12 years, a local human rights activist has told Forum 18 News Service. All ten have denied the criminal charges made and claim that evidence was planted on them. Forum 18 has been told that the wife of one of those arrested, Mukudas Yusupova, was mistakenly given by police a document showing the results of the search before the search had been conducted. Neither lawyers for the accused, nor human rights activists, nor journalists, were allowed into the court to hear the sentence, and police officers beat up protestors calling for journalists, human rights activists and lawyers to be allowed into the court.
All those sentenced had previously served prison terms on charges of being members of the banned Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, but were released under an amnesty in 2003. An outline of Hizb ut-Tahir's aims is given in F18News 29 October 2003 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=170 .
Ashurov was the first to be arrested - on 31 March 2004. On 3 April the other nine met for a meal at Solikhiddinov's house in Margelan, a satellite town near Fergana. Suddenly 20 police officers entered the house, showing a search warrant (see F18News 12 July 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=361). During the search the police claim to have found a copy of the magazine Al-vai (Wisdom) published by the Hizb ut-Tahrir party, as well as three leaflets. Solikhiddinov later claimed in court that this literature had been planted in his home.
All those present were taken to the Fergana regional police. Police claim they found bullets, drug-related items and Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets during a search of their homes, but relatives of the detainees claim that all these "articles of evidence" had simply been planted. This view is shared by the human rights activist Madmarov, who points out that identical items were allegedly found in each home. Moreover, Madmarov told Forum 18 that the wife of one of those arrested, Mukudas Yusupova, told the court that the police had mistakenly handed her a document showing the results of the search instead of the search warrant, even before the search had been conducted (see F18News 12 July 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=361).
Neither human rights activists nor journalists, nor even the lawyers of the accused, were allowed into the court on 23 July to hear the sentence pronounced. Yusupova, who was present in court, told Forum 18 on 7 August in Margelan that in his concluding statement in court, one of the accused, Islambek Isobekov, said that when he came out of prison in 2003 he was classified as a first degree invalid (the most serious of three levels of disability in Uzbekistan). "I could barely crawl out of hospital," he told the court. "It's simply ridiculous to imagine that someone as ill as me could be a terrorist. We are being dealt with simply because we are devout Muslims."
When the sentence was read out, the accused started calling for journalists, human rights activists and lawyers to be allowed into the court, but the police officers started beating the protesters with truncheons in response to their demands.
This is not the only legal case against Muslims in Fergana region following the March/April terrorist attacks outside the region in Tashkent and Bukhara [Bukhoro]. On 6 July Margelan court sentenced the imam of the central mosque in Novy Margelan Alokhon Ishankhojayev to six years' imprisonment, despite an abasnce of proof for the charges made against him (see F18News 12 July 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=361). On 26 July the Fergana regional court rejected an appeal against the decision of the Margelan court by Ishankhojayev's lawyer, leaving the sentence unchanged.
The trial of two Muslims, Akhmatakul Gainazarov and Abdula Kamalov, from the village of Buvaid, 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of Fergana, has been underway since 26 July. During a search of their homes on 17 April, they too had weapons and drugs planted on them, according to Madmarov.
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
6 August 2004
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.
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.