ANDIJAN TRIAL OPENS IN TASHKENT WITH SHAKY GOVERNMENT CASE
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 184
The trial of 12 Uzbek citizens and three Kyrgyz citizens accused of organizing the May uprising in Andijan, Uzbekistan, opened in Tashkent on September 15.
The 15 defendants are accused of terrorism, murder, taking hostages, trying to organize an anti-constitutional coup, and receiving $200,000 from Islamists to organize an armed uprising. There are 40 counts in all. If found guilty, the defendants could face long jail terms and possibly the death penalty.
Vildjin Irgaliev, a Kyrgyz citizen, is accused of supplying weapons to the insurgents. His compatriots Loghinbek Imankulov and Djohanghir Burkhanov are accused of shooting civilians and resisting authorities. The other 12 defendants were allegedly part of an advance squad that attacked a group of traffic police and the Andijan prison, leading teams of snipers, and going on a brutal rampage and killing innocent people. One defendant, Tavalbek Hodjiev, was brought to Tashkent from Ivanovo, Russia. The investigation claims that he helped deliver $200,000 to organize a coup.
According to Deputy Prosecutor-General Anvar Nabiev, all of the defendants are Islamic terrorists. Nabiev testified that foreign Islamic agents had organized the Andijan events. Their calculation was quite simple, he argued: to penetrate Uzbekistan, cut off the Fergana Valley from Uzbekistan, and declare an Islamic republic. Furthermore, Nabiev argued, the Islamic Movement of Turkistan was the ideological force behind the uprising and therefore culpable for the tragedy. He demanded that the court sentence the leader of the organization, Tahir Yuldashev, to death in absentia. After seven hours of testimony, all of the accused admitted their guilt. Thus, the Uzbek authorities managed to stage a show trial and to prove the involvement of international terrorists in the Andijan events (Kommersant, September 21).
In reality, however, the Uzbek government’s accusations raise many questions. For example, according to Ivanovonews.ru, Tavalbek Hojiev has never been in Ivanovo. According to journalists from the website, a man with a made-up name and biography was implicated in the trial to provide credibility to the official version of the Andijan events.
Journalists from Ivanovonews.ru have not been able to locate any man named “Hojiev” on the employee roster of the Rostex textile company, whose employees are still held in a temporary detention center in Ivanovo at the request of the Uzbek authorities. No human rights activists, Migration Service officials, or members of the Ivanovo Muslim community know of any man with that family name. The Ivanovo district Prosecutor’s Office could not shed any light on the identity of the man (September 22 Ivanovonews.ru).
The case of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks” started in mid-June, when Russian police and an Uzbek SWAT team arrested 14 people in Ivanovo, including owners and managers from a local company, Rostex. All of the arrested men were ethnic Uzbeks, natives of Andijan district. Russian police considered an oral request by staff of the Uzbek Interior Ministry sufficient grounds to arrest the businessmen. A written request from the Prosecutor-General of Uzbekistan came almost one month later. The written extradition appeal said, “The men arrested in Ivanovo committed many severe crimes: a murder attempt, brutal murder, preparation and organization of mass disturbances directed at overthrowing the constitutional order of Uzbekistan, inflicting severe bodily harm, etc.” It is now up to the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to reach a decision about the extradition of the 14 Uzbeks detained in Ivanovo to Uzbekistan (Fergana.ru, September 23).
The Uzbek authorities’ statement that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan organized the Andijan uprising seems quite questionable. Earlier, the Uzbek authorities had accused the Akramiya movement of heading up the Andijan uprising. Akramiya is related to the Islamic Party of Liberation, Hizb-ut-Tahrir (even though the Akramists categorically deny any links to the organization). Yet Hizb-ut-Tahrir has said time and again that they condemn the violent actions of the Islamic Movement of Turkistan (see EDM, May 16). It looks like official Tashkent is trying to define all oppositional Islamic movements as terrorist ones.
The accusations made by one of the accused men, the mysterious Mr. Hodjiev, and directed at the United States seem, to put it mildly, dubious. At one Supreme Court session he stated that the U.S. embassy had sponsored the disturbances in Uzbekistan. “We received money from the U.S. embassy,” Hodjiev testified. “They wanted to destroy the constitutional system of Uzbekistan by provoking a ‘color revolution’.”
The accused men could not cite the amount Washington had invested into the attempted coup, but they did provide details of its preparation. According to Husanjon Turabekov, an American woman named “Kelly” had been in contact with Akramiya militants. She would visit them in her red four-wheel drive vehicle and would always bring journalists and human rights activists with her. Most often, “Kelly” was accompanied by an Uzbek woman, Matyuba Azamatova, a BBC reporter in the Fergana Valley. According to Turabekov, Azamatova and human rights experts later became the main instigators of the disturbances.
Predictably, the U.S. State Department rejected the accusation that the U.S. embassy had sponsored the uprising in Andijan. “I still remember those people, who are testifying against me today, from the trial in Andijan [the original trial of Andijan businessmen that provoked the disturbances],” Azamatova recalled. “Back then, they were saying that they had nothing to do with Akramiya members. Now those whose words I quoted back then on air accuse me of aiding terrorists. They look like they have been turned into zombies” Kommersant, September 28).
Perhaps the accusations concocted by the Uzbek authorities are an indication that Tashkent is further distancing itself from Washington, following the U.S. demands for an independent international investigation of the Andijan events. (The first and the most serious manifestation of Tashkent’s discontent was to demand the closure of the U.S. military base in Uzbekistan.) Even though it continued to infringe upon human rights before the Andijan events, Tashkent had tried to please the United States by trying to maintain at least an image of being a democratic state to some degree.
Since the Andijan events, Tashkent has openly demonstrated to the West that it is no longer trying to look like a democratic state that respects freedom of speech. In compliance with an Uzbek court decision, the office of Internews (an American organization promoting journalism in developing countries) was shut down. Similarly the U.S.-based International Research and Exchanges Board, which conducted student exchanges and installed Internet access at schools, has been suspended for six months.
Notably, Deputy Prosecutor-General Nabiev likened a group of journalists (almost all of them working for Western media) covering the Andijan events to “jackals feeding on carrion.” Galima Bukharbaeva, director of the Tashkent office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Alexei Volosovich a correspondent for the information agency Fergana.ru, Andrei Babitsky from Radio Free Europe, and the BBC’s Azamatova have all been branded mortal enemies of Uzbekistan. Finally, this Jamestown analyst was deported from Uzbekistan after the Andijan events, even though his last name had been on the border guards’ list of unreliable people for at least three years before the August deportation.
Taken together, these latest developments suggest that Tashkent has abandoned any pretense of openness or democracy.
(Kommersant, September 21; Fergana.ru, September 13, Moscow News, August 19-25, Jamestown Foundation Press Release, August 12)