Another trial of religious “fundamentalists” is underway in Uzbekistan. Seven defendants are accused of having committed “crimes of an extremist nature” with the “intent of undermining social and political stability.” The charges stem from last December’s unrest in Namangan. (Uzbek TV, May 25) The authorities have described that unrest as inspired by “radical Islam” and use it as a justification for cracking down on religion. In the course of this month, at least twelve Namangan residents were sentenced to prison on charges of “religious extremism” and of “terrorism.” (see the Monitor, May 19)
In a report just released in the United States, Human Rights Watch charges that Uzbek authorities are repressing “peaceful religious expression” on the pretext of quelling “religious extremism.” “The government is painting all Muslims with the same brush: those suspected of criminal intent, and average Muslims who simply wear beards or go to mosques. It is subjecting Muslims on a mass scale to beatings and expulsion from universities and jobs.” It has also closed down mosques whose congregations seemed overly loyal to local imams. Such methods “risk provoking precisely the radical and even criminal response that the government wanted to prevent,” the HRW report warned. (HRW release, May 26)–VS
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