Uzbek rights group says 200 people falsely charged with killing officials, plotting coup

By Mansur Mirovalev, AP
Monday, March 1, 2010

Uzbekistan charges 200 with plotting alleged coup

MOSCOW — The government of Uzbekistan has falsely accused about 200 people of killing officials and plotting a coup in the authoritarian Central Asian nation, a human rights group said Monday.

Surat Ikramov of the Independent Human Rights Defenders Group says the men who have been caught up in a sweeping crackdown on Muslims and government critics are facing “100 percent trumped-up charges” in closed trials throughout the ex-Soviet nation.

He said the defendants are accused of being involved in the 2009 killings of a government-appointed Muslim cleric and a police colonel, and of forming underground Islamist groups to overthrow President Islam Karimov’s government.

Uzbek officials were not available for comment, and no information on the trials have been reported by strictly censored Uzbek media.

A former Communist boss, Karimov has ruled the predominantly Muslim nation of 27 million since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, silencing critics and eliminating opposition.

“This is state terror that only intensifies over the years,” Ikramov told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The defendants, most under age 30, have only been allowed to use government-appointed lawyers and were deprived of any communication with relatives, Ikramov said. At one of the trials outside Tashkent in late February, prosecutors requested that 15 defendants be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in jail, he said.

Rights groups claim that thousands of peaceful Muslims who worship outside government-sanctioned institutions have been convicted and jailed by Uzbek authorities fearful of Islamic fundamentalism. The prisoners are kept in remote maximum-security prisons and are subject to hunger, humiliation and torture, rights groups say.

Karimov’s government was ostracized by the West after its brutal suppression of a 2005 uprising in the eastern city of Andijan. Opposition and rights groups claimed that hundreds were killed in Andijan, but authorities insist fewer than 200 died and have accused Islamic militants of instigating the violence.

Since the uprising, Uzbek authorities have stepped up their pressure on religious groups, government critics and independent media. Eight human rights activists and one independent journalist were convicted and sentenced to jail in 2009, Ikramov’s group said.

will not be displayed