• From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Muslim News" <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 09:44:13 +0100

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has tried to temper his reputation for 
intolerance toward Islamic groups in recent months. In February, his courts 
imprisoned four police officers for beating a suspected seditionist to death. 
In March, his government registered a human rights organization. But a May 1 
statement by Human Rights Watch charges that Karimov’s campaign to crush the 
nonviolent Islamic movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir has started authorizing the 
detention of women and children. On April 23, the agency reported, police 
rounded up women at protests in Tashkent and Margilan and detained more than 18 
of them, some with babies. This report suggests that despite some visible 
changes, Karimov still authorizes an ongoing crackdown on peaceful Islamists. 

Uzbekistan’s crackdown on independent Muslims has subjected many suspected 
members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir party to torture and imprisonment. The organization, 
which seeks the restoration of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia but does 
not advocate violence, is illegal under Uzbek law. 

Karimov seemed to affirm the principle of due process for suspected members in 
the weeks surrounding his March visit to the United States. In a landmark case 
in February, a court sentenced police officials for the torture and killing of 
suspects of outlaw parties held in detention. [For more information see the 
EurasiaNet Human Rights archive]. Since March, investigators have been tracking 
a number of security officials from Margilan who are accused of killing 
Alimukhammad Mamadaliyev, 24, in November 2001. 

According to Mamadaliyev’s father Gulamjan, a police inspector took the young 
man from his home on November 4; his body surfaced in the Ferghana Canal on 
December 5. A man who claims to have witnessed the security officials in action 
claims that they beat Mamadaliyev to death and then threw his body into the 
canal to conceal their crime. 

According to the dead man’s family and families of similar cases, security 
officers warn surviving relatives against lodging complaints to the 
authorities. After BBC’s Uzbek Service reported on Mamadaliyev’s murder, his 
family claimed to receive intense surveillance. 

Human Rights Watch’s new claims about women echo a quieter but equally 
antidemocratic pattern. According to the May 1 statement, the rights group 
observed two trials of women accused of belonging to Hizb-ut-Tahrir. In an 
ongoing trial in Tashkent, Human Rights Watch says, four women say that 
authorities rounded them up on an hour’s notice and gave them a copy of an 
indictment after "several days of trial hearings." 

In the other trial, which ended April 24, a woman testified that police had 
threatened or beaten them to extract confessions – though all four convicted 
women said they only met privately to pray. While the women escaped with 
relatively light sentences for Uzbekistan – the stiffest was a four-year prison 
term – their stories make it hard to believe that Karimov is serious about 
promoting freedom of religion to honor his alliance with the United States. 

One new story echoes Mamadaliyev’s. Human Rights Watch says that Musharraf 
Usmonova disappeared after April 14, when "a group of policemen and close to 40 
unidentified men in civilian dress" took her from her house after a fruitless 
search for contraband. Authorities notified her lawyer that she was in custody 
eight days later, according to the release. "It’s hard to imagine a more 
dangerous situation," Human Rights Watch regional director Elizabeth Andersen 
said. "There’s a real threat of torture during pretrial custody in Uzbekistan, 
particularly when the detainee is held incommunicado." 

Before and after the February trial, according to one Hizb-ut-Tahrir member, 
the government has pursued the group with cruel methods. Independent human 
rights monitors in Uzbekistan say that over 4,500 Hizb-ut-Tahrir members are in 
prison, more than half of them from the Ferghana Valley. Many say that police 
planted drugs or leaflets on them or coerced false confessions with violence. 

According to Marie Struthers, who directs Human Rights Watch’s Tajikistan 
office, many Hizb-ut-Tahrir members said they met each other for the first time 
in detention – even though the government detained them as participants in a 
revolutionary conspiracy. Struthers also said that planting of evidence and 
coercion continued after Karimov’s trip to the United States. 

State law enforcement officials dispute these claims, saying that falsified 
cases are merely fabrications by Hizb-ut-Tahrir members. They claim that 
prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement employees work honestly and 
fairly. But the level of detail in recounted by Hizb-ut-Tahrir members and 
their families makes it difficult to discount their stories. The man who claims 
to have seen police dumping Mamadaliyev’s body in a canal also says police beat 
him for practicing Namaz – the religious ritual for praying five times a day. 
He also claims security officials tortured him, sodomizing him with a steel 
stick, because of what he had seen. The parents of another young male detainee 
say they heard a Margilan City officer of the national security services say he 
would infect all such "enemies of the state" with tuberculosis and have them 
die in prisons. 

Since Uzbekistan gained independence, says this person, leaders have squelched 
any opposition within the country that gave objective and vocal criticism of 
the government. "The development of such religious movements in Uzbekistan, 
where Muslims make the majority of the population, is natural," he said. "That 
is because Muslims trust their like-minded fellow Muslims more than deceitful 
politicians whose decisions are all empty promises." 
Source: Eurasianet 

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