On October 30, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan opened public proceedings in the criminal trial against twelve opposition leaders and militants. Three defendants are in the dock while the other nine are abroad. The nine being tried in absentia include Tahir Yuldash, Juma Namangani and Muhammad Solih. Yuldash and Namangani are the top leaders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which staged guerrilla incursions in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 1999 and this year. They have recently been moving between various sanctuaries and havens in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
Solih–a pseudonym of Salai Madaminov–is the leader of the Erk [Unity] Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, who was defeated in the 1991 presidential election by the incumbent President Islam Karimov. Solih was based mostly in Turkey until 1999, but had to move to Norway when the Turks, at Karimov’s insistence, asked him to leave. Although Erk is a secular, Western-oriented party with a program entirely different from IMU’s, Solih has at times made some tactical compromises with the IMU leaders. He has occasionally been spotted in areas near IMU sanctuaries. Uzbek authorities portray Solih and the IMU as components of a united opposition, blurring the differences between them.
The other six wanted defendants are charged with planting the bombs which killed nearly twenty and wounded some 120 people in Tashkent in the February 1999 assassination attempt against Karimov. The three defendants in the dock include an Uzbek citizen and two ethnic Uzbeks from Tajikistan. They were captured during recent anti-guerrilla operations in the Surkhandaria Region in southern Uzbekistan.
The trial is attended by relatives of victims of the Tashkent bombings, is being selectively televised, and will feature more than 700 witnesses for the prosecution (Uzbek Television, Tashkent Radio, October 27-31; Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Mashhad), October 27; see the Monitor, August 29, 31, September 8, 15, October 2; Fortnight in Review, September 8).
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