Persecution Of Members


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Persecution Of Members

  1. 1. Persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan A report detailing the cruel persecution and rights abuses against the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the people of Uzbekistan, by the country’s repressive government under its president Islam Karimov. JUNE 2002 WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO
  2. 2. Contents Backdrop 2 Testimonies of Victim’s Families 6 Testimony on Prison Conditions 14 Appendix 1 Media articles on Activity of Hizb ut-Tahrir 17 Appendix 2 Human Rights Reports 36 Human Rights Watch 37 Amnesty International 81 Appendix 3 Policy Institute Reports 145 Institute For War & Peace 146 Foreign Policy Studies 157 Washington Institute for Near East Affairs 167
  3. 3. Persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan A report detailing the cruel persecution, and rights abuses against members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the people of Uzbekistan by the country’s repressive government under its president Islam Karimov. Backdrop The body of Farhad Usmanov, 42, who died in pre-trial detention in June 1999. Usmonov, the son of a well-known imam, was arrested for alleged possession of a single leaflet of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation). The official cause of death was given as heart failure, although marks on the body and other evidence strongly suggest Usmonov died from torture. © 1999 Acacia Shields/Human Rights Watch WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 2
  4. 4. Images such as the one above depicting the body of Farhad Usmanov, member of Hizb ut- Tahrir is the standard signature of Islam Karimov’s Presidency of Uzbekistan. Since 1997 Uzbekistan’s President began a cruel campaign to stamp out all religious political activity and opposition to his despotic rule. In particular Hizb ut-Tahrir has been targeted due to its ideological call for a pure Islamic State in Central Asia and the Muslim world and due to its staunch criticism of the governments failing policies in Uzbekistan. Evidence of unlawful arrests and prosecutions, persecutions of family members, torture and extra judicial executions of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been widely documented by NGO’s and Human Rights organisations. Since the attacks on America on September the 11th and the subsequent ‘war on terrorism’ US led campaign, the ill treatment of the practising Muslims of Uzbekistan has intensified at an alarming rate. America’s endorsement of Uzbekistan as a strategic ally on its war on terror has effectively sanctioned the Karimov regime’s civil and human rights abuses of all religious and political opposition in Uzbekistan. Following the attacks in the USA, nine suspected members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were accused and charged amongst other charges with links to Al Qaeda. Even though the sate prosecutor produced no convincing evidence, and it is widely acknowledged that Hizb ut-Tahrir adopts a non-violent method for political change, all nine members were sentenced to lengthy nine to fifteen years prison terms. According to human rights observers at the trial, this was the first time that such a charge has been used by the country’s judiciary. There is no question that the Karimov regime is yet to produce any credible evidence to justify its cruel campaign against the Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a campaign that is now targeting WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 3
  5. 5. the women and the elderly from the member’s families. Musharifa Usmanov the wife of Farhad Uzmanov pictured above remains unjustly in custody up until today charged with similar unfounded terrorist activity. Another suspected female member of Hizb ut-Tahrir 29 year-old mother of two Shokhnoza Musaeva is currently serving 7 years in prison since August 1999 for possession of party literature. Further to the systematic harassment, evidence planting and threats by the security forces, documented evidence indicates that psychological torture especially of female detainees is common. In December 2000 a 25 year-old mother of two, Feruza Kurbanov, detained in Shakantaur District Police station was threatened with group rape if she did not confess to being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. As the global US led ‘war against terrorism’ campaign unfolds it is ironic that the international legal system has turned a blind eye to the state terrorism practiced by Islam Karimov’s government against the devout Muslims in Uzbekistan, a country that is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Instead Uzbekistan has been rewarded with a $55 million USD Credit Guarantee granted by the US Export-Import Bank and a promise of 160 million in US foreign aid, triple the previous aid package according to an article in the Washington Post on Wednesday, March 13, 2002. In this report we have collated testimonies from the families of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, media articles on the groups activity in the region, reports on human rights and civil rights violations in Uzbekistan and neighbouring states and policy institute reports to provide a comprehensive and clear picture of the alarming situation and extreme persecution of the groups members. The evidence contained within these documents establish beyond doubt that Islam Karimov’s government is in violation of its responsibilities under the above- mentioned treaties and that Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non violent political party that has never WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 4
  6. 6. engaged in violence despite the unfounded allegations, persecution and lengthy sentencing by the government of Uzbekistan. Whilst Karimov aims to convince the world that he is fighting terrorism, his heavy-handed dictator style approach seems to have only strengthened Hizb ut-Tahrir’s call of political change for a new just and sincere system of government as the group continues to win favour amongst the Muslims of Central Asia. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 5
  7. 7. Testimonies from Victims Families Below are some testimonies from the families of Members of Hizb ut-Tahrir that have been persecuted by the Karimov regime. The names have been withheld to protect the prisoners and their families from further ill treatment and persecution. Nasser born in 1971 Nowadays he serves his prison term in Jaslik prison, located in Karakalpak autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. He was arrested on October 7th of 1999, tried on April of 2000 and sentenced to 20 years of prison. During interrogation he had undergone the most inhuman and barbarous tortures: suffocation, breaking of hand and leg bones, pulling out his teeth and the like. In the meantime, while serving the imprisonment term, he is constantly being tortured and mistreated: regular beatings and battery, putting an excreta up to his chin, injecting unknown liquids with syringe and so on. Deceased Rasheed born November 19th, 1969 and tortured Aliev born November 19th, 1974 My sons - Rasheed, married, father of two children, his brother Aliev, married, father of three daughters - were both taken in custody by security officers on October 16th, 2001. My older son Rasheed was cruelly beaten (all parts of his body were bruised and injured) to death, his younger brother Aliev underwent barbarous battery, now he is still under intensive therapy in Tashkent Medical institute. Husain born June 10th, 1977 My son served 7 months in Zangiota prison around Tashkent, then was sent to a prison in Karakalpakstan After falling ill was brought to San.gorod (prison located in WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 6
  8. 8. Quyliq, Tashkent for severely sick prisoners). I did not know his whereabouts and finally found him after six months. After that I still was not allowed to see him two more months. When I finally saw my son, his condition was terrible. He was brought in a stretcher to a room and put to the floor. Even then he was proud and tried to calm me. According to him, in both prisons he served his term in there were cruel beatings and tortures. “Here we do not get any medical treatment” - he said and asked – “Did you hear the news that Muslims all over the world are uniting? That is why Karimov went to USA whining”. Only then I realized that he also was in Navoi prison. When I asked him if he wrote an excuse letter, he said: “How would I face my Lord after that, how would I answer on the Judgment day?” “Every single day at least two people die here. There are holes on the sides of these people – through which the pus flows out. But I am fine; I get rid of the pus via cough. And my friends come and support me” he continued. One week after I last saw him – on Wednesday, October 31st his body was delivered to us. My son was still handsome, as if he were alive and sleeping, his hair very black. On Thursday evening at 20.00 he was buried. Faruq, born March 15th 1971. Married, father of one child. Joined Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1997, ever since was one of the most active members. On Saturday August 30th 1999 together with several other members of Hizb was taken from local neighborhood committee to Kumkurgon department of Internal affairs ministry (IAM). There he was severely tortured. One week or ten days later, when he was brought home to attend the search, he felt really bad and could not sustain himself without somebody’s help. He waited for trial seven months and on March-April of 2000 he and 48 other members of Hizb ut-Tahrir were WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 7
  9. 9. tried. He was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. At the end of April of 2000 he was sent to prison № 64/48, located in Zarafshon town of Navoi region. At the night of May 2nd of the year 2001 – around 1 o’clock a.m. we were informed of his death. When he was brought home and washed before burial, the back of his body was dark due to bruises caused by battery. He was buried on May 4th late in the evening. The whole burial process was taped by the officers of National security service (NSS). Usman, born on August 2 1958. He was arrested on August 28th of 2000 by officers of IAM in the streets of the city. The trial took place in Shaykhontohur district and sentenced him to 15 years of imprisonment. After appeals the term was reduced to 9 years. During trial he was already seriously sick. After sentencing he was sent to prison №64/61 in Qarshi, 20 days later brought to Quyliq (San.gorod). He was really sick and on November 23rd he died. Next day he was brought home – he was very thin, his legs and stomach swollen, and his liver injured. Umar born on November 18th 1969 Married, father of 3 sons. He was arrested on November 12th 2000 during distribution of leaflets and was interrogated in Chilonzor district Internal affairs department of Tashkent. He was tried in Tashkent regional court: first in January, second time in March - sentenced to five and a half year imprisonment and sent to prison № 64/46 in Navoi, where he was under constant tortures. His working hours were not reduced even due to his poor-health – in the morning in the quarry, then at the brick plant, cleaning the toilets with his hands, during which he would be put into excreta up to his chin. Due to heavy work his health worsened, so that he was brought to San.gorod on July 7th of WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 8
  10. 10. 2001. On October 6th he died. Next day at around 10.30 a.m. security service officers informed of his death, at 14.00 p.m. brought home, couple of hours later buried. Muhammad born in 1976 in Yailma district of the city of Margilan On August 27 of 2001 at 23.00 p.m. officers of NSS and neighborhood committee chairman Isroil came home, presented thousands of reasons to Hurshidjon’s parents and took him to police office. On Friday, September 28th his family visited Ferghana department of NSS to see him. They were told, that he was sick and needed a medication that cost 18 thousand sums. They were not allowed to see him, however he was already dead, because when on Sunday, September 30th his body was brought home it was very much obvious, that he died 2-3 days earlier. On September 30th the neighborhood chairman Isroil was informed of his death. He, prior to informing Muhammad’s parents, went out to cemetery and ordered a grave for him. Then he informed his uncle of the death. At that same time Muhammad’s father was in rehabilitation after surgery. Relatives decided not to show his body to his father and brought him in stretchers. Nevertheless, his father found out of the death, and when he saw the body of his dead son he fell unconscious. So Muhammad’s body was brought at 18.00 p.m. on Sunday and before his relatives arrived he was buried. His body was exhausted and very thin. His skull was broken, his hair turned grey, his back, legs and feet were bruised because of beatings, nails on the feet were pulled out, his stomach cut and sewed. He was so thin that his mother and wife did not recognize him at the first sight. The NSS officers brought a document, stating he was retarded and had a heart disease. However, Muhammad has neither had a heart disease nor was retarded; he was very kind to his parents, family members and relatives. Also he was one of the most educated men of these times. May Allah be pleased with him. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 9
  11. 11. Ali born on October 12th 1975 On May 29th of 1999 was arrested by officers of NSS as alleged member of Hizb ut- Tahrir. At that time my son admitted the membership and said to me: “Pray and ask Allah to give us the patience and do not worry”. He was kept in NSS office for three days, and then transferred to Andijan prison. Starting from November of 1999 he served six months in Zangiota prison near Tashkent – I went there and visited him two times – he was fine. On May of 2000 he again was transferred to Jaslik prison located in the town of Nukus of Karakalpakstan, but since the weather of that place was not good my son two months later – on June 20th of 2000 – was sent to hospital located in Tashkent San.gorod – to intensive therapy department. I realized this one and a half months later, when received my son’s letter. At the end of September I visited my son to see him for two hours as per such admission. He was so sick that he could not walk to the meeting room, so he was brought on a stretcher. Even then he would only say: “I am fine, pray and ask Allah to give us – me and you – cure from sicknesses and patience, mother”. So I would see him every month, also every four month they would allow one food bundle from home. Afterwards, during one and a half year, I would visit him in Tashkent every month, delivering food and medication. But his condition kept worsening he would get thinner. Also he could not step on one of his legs – from the time he was in Jaslik. When I asked for reason, he said he would tell me later, but never told. On January 10th of 2002 we received a telegram, stating that he died. My brothers went there and brought the body, the next day he was buried. May Allah be pleased with my beloved and dear son. His father was born on October 26th of 1951, completed college of commerce in Asaka, died on April 18th of 1979. His mother was born on October 7th of 1954, completed secondary school and for 20 years worked at a craftsmanship plant. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 10
  12. 12. Musab born August 31st of 1974 In 1991 completed the secondary school № 186 with honor. That same year entered Tashkent state oriental studies institute – department of philology. In 1993 he transferred to Islamic studies department, during 1994-95 studied at al-Azhar University in Egypt. In 1996 graduated from the institute with honor. On July 6th of 1999 he was arrested by Shaykhontohur district department of IAM. There he was interrogated by Begmanov N., during it – up until September - was held in Tashkent prison, then transferred to Khovos prison in Sirdarya region, from December of until April 15th of 2001 in Zangiota prison, located in Tashkent region, then until May 31st in Quyliq prison (San.gorod). His trial was held at Mirzaobod district of Sirdarya region, prosecutor asked for eight and a half years, the judge sentenced him to seven years. We had seen him last time on March 13-14 of 2001 during an extended visit. He was sick, had a cold, exhausted, hurting from back and leg aches. After our visit he was put in an isolation ward. After getting out of it he was brought to Quyliq (San.gorod), where he stayed from April until the middle of May. When we went there, we did not get a permission to see him. The notion of his death was received on June 1st of 2001. When his body was brought home, we could not recognize him: hair turned gray, very thin body – only bones were left. Since the body was frozen, we assumed he died one or two days ago. Faisal born in 1965 He was a baker, had three children. He was one of those active members of Hizb ut- Tahrir, who gave it all he had – his life and property. On August 25th of 1999 his house WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 11
  13. 13. was searched, late in the evening he was arrested and taken to NSS, where he was interrogated during 4 months. They could not extract from him neither any information nor regret for joining the Hizb. After that he was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. He was sent to Qiziltepa prison № 64/47, located in Navoi region. In the middle of September of 2001 the neighborhood committee chairman and 5 officers of NSS came home and told my son died hanging himself. They brought this information on Saturday, saying the body would be brought on Monday. However, the security officers unexpectedly brought him home on Sunday night. His left shoulder and left arm had bullet-caused injuries, back heavily hurt, one hand finger smashed. The officers insisted that burial of martyr takes place at night – they even prepared the washer and grave- digger. When the grave-digger refused to work at night, they promised to fire him, so he was compelled to dig a grave. When the family of Tursinboy asked them to postpone the burial at least until 10.00 o’clock in the morning, the officers did not give their consent they insisted on burying him early in the morning, right after the morning (fajr) prayer, so imam and 30-40 people around him had buried the martyr. In actuality, Faisal was really firm even in prison, which resulted in constant tortures and beatings and ultimately in his death. The prison workers took his dead body and hung it in his room, then disseminated rumors in prison, that he hung himself. However, his friends and brothers (members of Hizb) knew the actual state of the things. May Allah give His guidance to the tyrants. And He is enough for those who refuse to be guided by Him. Abdullah born on May 1st, 1974 Married, father of two children – one daughter, one son. Graduated from a university. Worked as a mathematics teacher at a school. On April 5th of 1999 was arrested as the member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. On May 31st sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. Served WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 12
  14. 14. his term in Jaslik prison, on April 19th of 2001 was brought to San.gorod due to lung disease. On January 31st of 2002 joined the martyrs. Abdul-Hameed born in 1953 Married, father of three sons and one daughter. He was a farmer. On May 12th of 1999 was arrested as the member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment, which he served in prison №. 64/46, located in Navoi. On February 6th of 2002 he died from heart attack and joined the martyrs. On February 9th was brought home. That same day – within one hour, without letting the relatives and neighbors to burial prayer - was buried by officers of NSS. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 13
  15. 15. Testimony on Prison Conditions Nowadays the prisons of Uzbekistan are being visited by commissions, mostly comprised of the representatives of ICRC – Internatioanl committee of Red Cross. Due to this, when the commissons come to prisons, all renowned Muslims capable of talking to commission members are being transferred to San.gorod (prison clinic, located in Tashkent) or Tashkent prison in order to hide them from the eyes of commissions. We have been witnessing this for the last five months. Currently, upon rumors that ICRC might visit the Qizil-tepa prison № 64/47, 50 Muslims have been transferred to Tashkent prison and there distributed to other places pair by pair. Recently, in January a meeting was held in Koson prison № 64/51 – representatives of Internal affairs ministry (IAM), National security service (NSS), procurators, two imams of Qarshi cathedral mosque and the head of Qarshi regional prisons Islomov attended it. Only the Muslims among all prisoners stood up and uncovered one truth about the life in Koson prison – that they had been forced to ask for government’s mercy right before the independence day and also afterwards to qualify for early release. Majority of Muslims did not do so and have no intention to do so in the future. Failing to compel them by tortures, cruel battery and putting in isolation wards, the prison authorities started employing even worse methods – the ones even animals would be ashamed of. They summoned Muslims into their cabinets and – four, five or even more people – tried to rape them until they refuse and reject from their faith and membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. They take the lead and make several mean vermin prisoners do this job. When Muslims strongly resist this, 3-4 prison officers cuff their hands so that those vermin prisoners could rape them. This state of the matters continues to happen in Qarshi 64/49, Qarshi 64/61, Koson 64/51, Navoi 64/29, Qizil-tepa 64/47 and Zarafshon 64/48 prisons. Those Muslims who dared to openly disclose this in Koson prison three days later were taken to San.gorod. Despite their fine health condition, now they are put among those diseased by tuberculosis. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 14
  16. 16. One week ago on April 12th an interrogator from Qarshi came to visit 5 Muslims from Koson prison, asked them about events that took place in their prison and announced that a criminal case against head of Qarshi regional prisons was being brought, and had them write testimony. He told our brothers that they might be summoned to court as witnesses. We ask you to find out where will this trial be held – in IAM, NSS, office of public prosecutor, Presidential administration or human rights organizations – and send to all those instances the written complaints, so that the crimes of those prison guards will be uncovered. Let people know, that people who are supposed to obey the law, protect and act in accordance with it are the ones who break them in the first place, commit awful crimes and mean offences (according to own laws) against their own laws. Let our nation and people know – whatever it takes, whether through BBC, Liberty Radio, human rights organizations, orally or in written form – request them to disclose these things. There are deaths in San.gorod every day. Every single day a patient prisoner dies here. The diseased prisoners stay here for 2-3 months and then transferred to Navoi 64/36 and Kokand 64/62 – special prisons for tubercular patients. After one or two months they are again taken half dead to San.gorod, the reason for that being constant hard work, very limited amount of food intake, cruel battery as punishment for prayer and tough conditions of isolation wards, where Muslims are put on a regular basis. Recently a commission visited San.gorod and video-taped the naked prisoners from Navoi prison № 64/36 to present the tape as evidence of their disastrous condition – completely exhausted and famished bodies – to the representatives of IAM. However, these frequent commissions cause little change – on the visit day things get the artificial make up, the next day everything returns to its original disastrous condition. It is a custom in Uzbekistan prisons that a number of healthy prisoners brought to San.gorod commingled with diseased prisoners, stay together with them 15-20 days, get infected and WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 15
  17. 17. then sent back to their prisons. In 2-3 months they return to San.gorod again – this time being really diseased. And most of such prisoners are Muslims. In the meantime most cases are filed against women – they are sentenced to long-terms and undergo tortures in prisons: · Rahmonova Ulfatoy, born in 1953, mother of 5 children, two of them are sentenced to 15 years each. · Mirzahamidova Muqaddas, born in 1981. Despite asking for mercy sentenced to five and a half years. She is the one, who is put into isolation wards for 9-10 days – even in cold winter days – having only a light chemise and no shoes. · Musaeva Shahnoza, born in 1971. Mother of 2 children. Sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment. All these women are from Tashkent. They are mostly subject to a psychological insult and threats - lately dramatically increasing. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 16
  18. 18. APPENDIX 1 Media Articles This section contains some media articles from news sources and journals with regards to the activity of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 17
  19. 19. Central Asia: How Big A Threat Is Hizb ut-Tahrir? (Part 1) By Bruce Pannier As Central Asian governments continue their crackdown on unsanctioned Islamic groups they say pose a threat to regional security, the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which advocates a return to “pure” Islam and the creation of a region-wide Islamic state, is an elusive and mysterious target. Among the most feared Islamic networks in Central Asia, it is also, seemingly, the least understood. Operating in three-person groups, with only limited contact with other such “cells,” Hizb ut-Tahrir’s members are nearly impossible to tally, and their goals in the region are unclear. But hundreds, and possibly thousands, of them are filling the jails of Central Asia, despite little evidence the group has ties to more militant Islamic groups in the region. In the first of a two-part series, RFE/RL looks at the origins of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia. Prague, 30 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- No one can say with any certainty how many members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement are active in Central Asia. But leaflets and other materials advocating the establishment of a vast Islamic caliphate, or empire, have appeared in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and, most recently, in southern Kazakhstan. For the governments of Central Asia—deeply concerned over possible incursions by Islamic militant groups into the region—the spread of Hizb ut- Tahrir propaganda is a worrying trend. John Schoeberlein, the director of Harvard University’s Central Asia program, described Hizb ut-Tahrir’s goals and appeal in the region. “First of all, it’s a political organization primarily. And perhaps, secondarily, a religious one, although it’s certainly on their agenda to promote the revival of religion and ultimately to achieve a caliphate—that is, an Islamic state—across the region. The goal is to work in the underground in opposition to the existing governments and ultimately to eliminate them. It’s certainly the most influential, most widely popular political Islamic group in Central Asia,” Schoeberlein said. Hizb ut-Tahrir—or “Freedom Party”—has its roots in the Middle East in 1950s. Its original members were mainly Palestinians from Jordan and Syria, although the movement quickly found supporters in Egypt and North Africa as well. It is an orthodox movement that believes the sanctity of Islam was WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 18
  20. 20. shattered soon after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, and aims to return the religion to its original state of spiritual purity. Among its goals is the elimination of modern forms of government and imposing Sharia Islamic law throughout the Islamic world. But unlike other movements, like the Taliban and Wahhabism—which likewise advocate a strict interpretation of Islam—Hizb ut-Tahrir does not oppose modern technology, and uses VCRs, CDs, and the Internet to spread its message. The movement first appeared in Central Asia in the early 1990s. Its penetration of the region is unclear, and its organization—based on networks comprising three-person “cells” with only limited contact among one other—make it difficult to estimate its size. Hizb ut-Tahrir claims to have upwards of 100,000 members in the area, but more modest assessments place the number at some several thousand. But regardless of its numbers, the group’s impact is undeniable. Journalist Ahmed Rashid, in his recently published book “Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia,” writes that there are more members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the region’s prisons than of any other movement. The movement even appears to have spread beyond Central Asia to the Caucasus: An Azerbaijan court last month sentenced six Hizb ut-Tahrir members to prison terms. Peter Sinnott of Columbia University’s School of International Affairs said the defining characteristic of Hizb ut-Tahrir—and the reason it inspires such fear in the governments of the region—is its secrecy. “The main characteristic of this organization is that it is very secretive. And people should keep in mind that in many ways that’s the way Islam was preserved in the Soviet period,” Sinnott said. In their crackdown against radical Islamism in the region, the governments of Central Asia have consistently linked Hizb ut-Tahrir with groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU. The IMU, which in recent years has staged armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, has already demonstrated it is prepared to use violence to achieve its goals, which, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, include the creation of an Islamic state. Hizb ut-Tahrir has no such record of violence in Central Asia. But, Sinnott said, its shared goal of an Islamic caliphate makes it easy for the region’s governments to link it to more radical groups like the IMU. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 19
  21. 21. “What [Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU] are espousing in terms of Islam is more alike than different, and they are espousing, as I understand it, the renewal of an Islamic caliphate. And I think that this factor, which is similar to what the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were very much about, is the factor people are focusing on,” Sinnott said. There is little to demonstrate that Hizb ut-Tahrir advocates violent means to achieve its end of creating an Islamic caliphate. The U.S. State Department, which last year included the IMU in its list of world terrorist organizations, did not list Hizb ut-Tahrir. Schoeberlein of Harvard University agreed there is no reason to believe Hizb ut-Tahrir poses a danger, at least in any direct sense, to the governments of the region. “The governments of the region have declared [Hizb ut-Tahrir] to be bent on violent overthrow of the government, but there’s actually no good evidence that any Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been involved in violent acts,” Schoeberlein said. In fact, Schoeberlein said, Hizb ut-Tahrir “quite explicitly disavows violence as its means for achieving power.” (The Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Tajik services contributed to this report.) Central Asia: Governments React To Uncertain Threat From Hizb ut-Tahrir (Part 2) By Bruce Pannier International rights groups have watched with concern as the countries of Central Asia crack down on Islamic groups branded by governments as extremist or violent. Among the targeted groups is Hizb ut- Tahrir, a movement advocating the creation of a region-wide Islamic caliphate and a return to Islam in its pure, original form— a goal shared by demonstrably radical groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU. But to date, Hezb ut Tahrir has staged no acts of violence and its goals in the region remain unclear. Nonetheless, scores of its members have been arrested and sentenced to terms in prison. In the second of a two-part series, RFE/RL reports on how individual Central Asian WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 20
  22. 22. governments are reacting to Hizb ut-Tahrir, and what the group’s members see as their aims in the region. Prague, 30 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan are united in staunchly defending their crackdown on outlawed Islamic groups like Hizb ut- Tahrir as part of the broader campaign against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. But reaction to the perceived threat varies from country to country. The sense of danger is felt most keenly by the government of Uzbekistan. This may be because— judging by the names of Hizb ut-Tahrir members put on trial throughout Central Asia—the group comprises mainly ethnic Uzbeks. Human-rights organizations also say that prisons in Uzbekistan hold more Hizb ut-Tahrir members than those in any other country in the region. Acacia Shields is a Central Asian researcher for the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch. She said many Hizb ut-Tahrir members find themselves in Uzbek jails because of their group’s superficial resemblance to more radical groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, which have proven records of violence. “This is something that is very troubling, that is, the conflation of really disparate Islamic groups in the region. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a distinct organization, separate from Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a militant group, it’s an armed organization based outside of Uzbekistan, whereas Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group with members inside the country who avow that they are nonviolent, who have never been accused of any specific violent act, and have never made any statements suggesting that they are in league with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” Shields said. But Hizb ut-Tahrir cannot be said to invite the understanding of regional governments. Its structure is so secretive—estimates of the group’s Central Asian membership range from several thousand to more than 100,000 -- that most people learn of the group’s members only once they are arrested and put on trial, most often for distributing leaflets and other types of propaganda material. In Uzbekistan, sentences for such activity can be stiff, ranging from 10 to upwards of 20 years. Moreover, rights groups say, members of banned religious groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir can suffer severe beatings at the hands of police officers once in detention. The issue of police torture has recently been WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 21
  23. 23. spotlighted in Uzbekistan, where four officers this year were convicted for their role in the beating death of a detainee. Tajikistan, like Uzbekistan, has arrested, tried, and convicted dozens—possibly hundreds—of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members. The Tajik Interior Ministry reported last month it had apprehended more than 20 members since the start of the year. Although Tajik courts hand down comparable sentences to those in Uzbekistan, their legal system is regarded as more transparent, if not necessarily more fair. RFE/RL spoke to several Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Tajikistan. One, speaking under the pseudonym Safar Jonmahmadov, said many of his fellow members have suffered severe abuse—and even death—while in police custody. “There was Arobidin, an agitator for Hizb ut-Tahrir. In the prison of the [Tajik] Interior Ministry, or somewhere else, he was tortured and died because of this torture,” Jonmahmadov said. Another Hizb ut-Tahrir member, using the pseudonym Navruz Soliev, described his own arrest. He said Tajik police regularly violate proper legal procedure when arresting members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. “The means they used against us were barbaric, even by the standards of their own ‘laws.’ First, they should come with a document. Second, they need an order from the prosecutor, and third, they should have evidence of a crime [before making an arrest],” Soliev said. In Tajikistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir faces a unique problem. The government itself includes members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRP, a splinter group that has allied itself with some of the region’s radical groups. But IRP’s leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, labeled Hizb ut-Tahrir as extremists and added his party is doing all it can to limit the group’s influence. A third Hizb ut-Tahrir member, who spoke under the name Kurban Adhamov, said his group differs from groups like the IRP. “We do not agree with those who go by the means of the IRP. We think that we will follow peaceful means until the time when we form an Islamic caliphate, and therefore we can not be with [the IRP]. But we are their brothers. They understand things differently. They think they are right,” Adhamov said. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 22
  24. 24. Kyrgyzstan is perhaps the mildest in its treatment of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members. Sentences are no longer than 10 years, and are typically much less. Some Hizb ut-Tahrir members, usually those caught distributing or possessing the group’s leaflets, are simply fined after a brief detention. A member of Hizb ut-Tahrir living in southern Kyrgyzstan, who asked not to be named, offered a possible explanation for why Kyrgyz authorities have been relatively tolerant of the group’s activities. He said his group has no intention to overthrow the government nor does it bear any ill will toward the country’s president, Askar Akaev. But, he said, his group does believe that sooner or later the system must change. “We are opponents of the democratic system. We are not against individuals if they embrace Islam and return to Allah. If a person wants to live according to Sharia [Islamic law], he is our brother. If he wants democracy and to live by the laws of the ‘kufr’ [nonbelievers], he is then our enemy. Kufr are our enemies. If Akaev willingly accepts Islam, and if he imposes Islamic laws, he can sit on his throne,” the Hizb ut-Tahrir member. Such militant remarks may be on the rise among Hizb ut-Tahrir members. Bakhtiyar Bobojonov, an Islam specialist at the Tashkent Academy of Sciences, said the group has undergone a philosophical shift since the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign began in neighboring Afghanistan. “After the campaign against terrorists started in Afghanistan, the position of Hizb ut-Tahrir changed and they became much more radical. They are spreading leaflets and literature calling for war and martyrdom in the war for Islam,” Bobojonov said. Analysts have noted that the recent growth in radical Islamic movements in Central Asia—particularly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan—may be explained in the chronic poverty and lack of basic freedoms that continue to plague the region. The Hizb ut-Tahrir member speaking in Kyrgyzstan seems to confirm this. Asked what role his group can play in Central Asia, he said: “The people are tired of democracy. [All around you,] you see unemployment, immorality. Our people are Muslims and they all yearn for Allah and to live by his laws.” WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 23
  25. 25. (Uktambek Karimov and Khurmat Babadjanov of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service and Salimjon Aioubov and Iskander Aliyev of RFE/RL’s Tajik Service contributed to this report.) Astana Concerned by Islamist Propaganda Drive Hizb ut-Tahrir activists arrested distributing leaflets calling for a Caliphate and a Jihad against Israel. By Daur Dosybiev in Shymkent (RCA No. 117, 26-Apr-02) The arrest of two Islamists distributing leaflets in the southern Kazak city of Turkestan earlier this month underlines the growing power in the area of the secretive Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Sunni fundamentalist group dedicated to the creation of a theocratic Muslim state. Esen Saparov, 43, and Izatulla Abdraimov, 33, detained on April 13, did not deny membership of the Islamic group, but they refused to give any evidence that might harm the organisation, which is banned across Central Asia and has been linked with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, rebel group that tried to assassinate Uzbek president Islam Karimov. Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party for Islamic Freedom) has hitherto held less sway among the nomadic Kazaks than in neighbouring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But plunging living standards, the lack of a social safety net, corruption and state heavy-handedness have created a fertile breeding ground for the religious-political organisation. It is dedicated to persuading Muslims to return to an Islamic way of life and to spreading the Islamic faith throughout the world by means of Jihad. The party aspires to the creation of a united theocratic Muslim state - the Caliphate. Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in 1952 by a judge at the Palestinian Sharia court in Jerusalem, Taki ad- adin Nabkhani al-Falastini. The 78 Kazak language leaflets confiscated from Saparov and Abdraimov, alongside traditional stirring calls for the creation of a Caliphate, explained the current crisis in the Middle East and attacked the Israeli government. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 24
  26. 26. Following the death of al-Falastani in 1979, his successor Abd al-Kadim Zallum began work in the Muslim countries of the former USSR. At first, members of Hizb ut-Tahrir tried to work openly, distributing literature and leaflets and organising conferences. But growing state antagonism forced the organisation underground, and in the early 1990s, Hizb ut- Tahrir wrote in its charter a secrecy article covering the location of its leaders. The Islamists will not say how many members it has in the south Kazak oblast, but police estimate that there are about 20-30 activists. They are well organised and have the resources to print propaganda material. Last year, they distributed leaflets during the celebrations for the 1,500th anniversary of the city of Turkestan. Turkestan, with its mausoleum of one of the founders of the Suffi order, Hadji Akhmed Yassawi, is a sacred site for Turkic-speaking Muslims throughout the world. Saparov and Abdraimov are from neighbouring Kentau but said they were distributing leaflets in Turkestan because the population was more religious in the city. Kentau was a centre for the mining industry in southern Kazakhstan during the Soviet era, and ethnographist Igor Savin believes it is no coincidence that the two pamphleteers came from there. Over the past ten years, the town has turned into a focus for social problems and a source of social discontent. "This is evidence of social and not religious motives for people joining Hizb ut-Tahrir," Savin said. "The more southerly regions, bordering on Uzbekistan, which are more inclined towards traditional Central Asian ways of life have fewer followers of Hizb ut-Tahrir. It seems that traditional religion has got nothing to do with this." Last November, a young resident of Kentau died in hospital, alleging he had been beaten by security forces while being interrogated about his involvement with the Islamists. Police said Kanat Beimbetov, 22, died when he attempted to escape by jumping out of a car that was moving at speed. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 25
  27. 27. Kanat's relatives say they filmed his account of being beaten by the police on video. But sadly, there is little cause to doubt their claims as security forces frequently beat prisoners in Kazakhstan. Since the government declared Hizb ut-Tahrir to be illegal, the hands of the police have been untied. The corruption and the inflexibility of state bureaucracy have allowed the party to promote the importance of living according to the rules of the Sharia. Hizb ut-Tahrir followers believe people would show greater respect for the laws of the Sharia as they would be afraid of being punished by Allah. A young man in Kentau, who wished to remain anonymous, told the IWPR that although he would prefer to live in a secular society, "Hizb ut-Tahrir, unlike our current authorities, doesn't lie." He said a state constructed in accordance with the laws of the Sharia would feature less of the corruption and other negative factors endemic in Kazakhstan today. "When speaking of the social roots of the appearance of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kazakhstan, it should be noted that the main factor is the impoverishment and spiritual vacuum of the population," said Savin. "People don't see any legal means to improve their condition and respond well to any calls for alternative approaches. As a result, stopping people from being attracted to extremist organisations is problematic because of the limitations of just using repressive measures." Daur Dosybiev is an independent journalist in Kazakhstan BBC INTERNATIONAL REPORTS (CENTRAL ASIA) 23rd April 2002 RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS POSE THREAT TO CENTRAL ASIA, TAJIK MEDIA CONFERENCE SAYS Text of report by Kyrgyz news agency Kabar Bishkek, 23 April: Underground religious parties are posing a threat to the existing system in Central Asia, the Islam and Society regional media conference in Dushanbe [Tajikistan's capital] has said. The Islamic Liberation Party, Hezb-e Tahrir al-Islami, has carried out specific activity. It has exploited the WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 26
  28. 28. empty ideological niche in the Fergana valley [which includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan], where 12m people are poor. It is here that the well-conspired party arranged the first disobedience action - an unsanctioned meeting near the District state administration [in Kyrgyzstan] - exactly a year ago. Therefore it is not accidental that not only experts from Central Asia have come to the conference, which was convened by the Swiss CIMERA organisation and the Tajik media association. Scientists of Russia, Iran, France and Switzerland have presented their vision of Islam in society. Source: Kabar news agency, Bishkek, in Russian 0928 GMT 23 Apr 02 April 16, 2002 BIGOTRY MONITOR REPRESSION BREEDS EXTREMISM IN CENTRAL ASIA. Continued government repression is breeding extremist movements in all five Central Asian republics, particularly in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to four leaders of human rights organizations active in Central Asia who spoke at a briefing at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Washington offices last week. Vitaly Ponomaryov, head of the Central Asian Program of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, characterized the regime of Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov as "unprecedented among the republics of the former Soviet Union" in its efforts to repress its citizenry. According to Ponomaryov, Niyazov imprisons more political dissidents than all of the post-Soviet states combined, and his regime persecutes and tortures the families of opposition members who have fled Turkmenistan. Although some political prisoners have been released, new trials of dissidents are under way. Pulat Akhunov, a former political prisoner in Uzbekistan and senior member of the opposition Birlik Party, said that September 11 gave Uzbek President Islam Karimov a new "opportunity to crack down" on political and religious opposition. Akhunov said that the government's repression of the religious WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 27
  29. 29. opposition has been even more severe than the measures it has taken against the secular political opposition. Atanazar Arifov, the general-secretary of the opposition Erk Party of Uzbekistan and also a former political prisoner, said that "the will of the Uzbek government is anti-democratic" and that the "negative developments overshadow the few positive steps" the Karimov regime has taken in recent months "because of the U.S. presence." According to Arifov, "the Clinton Administration did have a program", but that effort appears "to have been put aside." Abdusalom Ergashev, head of the Ferghana branch of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, said that recent convictions of political activists in a Ferghana district court, where members of Hizb-ut Tahrir -- a group sometimes called "utopian" as it seeks the non-violent establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia -- received 7 to 20-year sentences, could drive this group to become a terrorist organization like the Islamic Movement for Uzbekistan (IMU). Ergashev said that the IMU, which is based outside Uzbekistan, had grown out of the government's repression of a peaceful Islamic political movement, Adolat. US military presence in C. Asia alarming By Frank Brown BISHKEK : As 1,500 troops from eight countries work around the clock to construct an airbase just outside this sleepy former Soviet city, Kyrgyz political observers are debating just what the Western military presence will mean for democracy in the mountainous country that has never quite lived up to its billing as the Switzerland of Central Asia. Although opinions vary on the West's ultimate aims in this country bordering China and a 45-minute fighter flight from Afghanistan, there is no doubt that the domestic political landscape is changing rapidly. Last month, at least six people died in a murky clash between government security forces and people protesting the imprisonment of an opposition political leader. Exactly what happened is still unclear, but WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 28
  30. 30. President Askar Akayev took the incident seriously enough to go on national television in an effort to calm the nation of 4.7 million. Some human rights activists fear increased government crackdowns on political opponents by an emboldened government. Chinara Jakypova, Kyrgyz country director for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting says: "We have the sense that with the opening of the base, the United States is closing its eyes to human rights concerns." He claims that a boost to the country's battered economy will be the only clear benefit from the construction of the Peter J. Ganci Jr Airbase, named after the New York Fire Department chief who died in the World Trade Centre collapse. A US Air Force spokeswoman said the military had spent $4.5 million on food, lodging, fuel and landing fees in the first two months of work on the base since the deal was struck in December. When it is completed, the base will house about 2,000 soldiers and 25 aircraft supporting operations in Afghanistan. Six French Mirage fighters are already flying sorties from there, supported by ground crews from the United States, Denmark, France, Spain, South Korea, Norway, Netherlands and Australia. The Americans predominate with 700 of the 1,500 soldiers living in the swiftly built tent city. Under the terms of the one-year lease for use of the civilian airport and 35 acres of adjacent land for the he military base, the Kyrgyz government is placing no restrictions on what sort of aircraft can use the facility. At least one Kyrgyz opposition leader is happy to see the Western military presence as a long-term one. Emil Aliyev, a leader of the Ar-Namys opposition party, believes that President Akayev got more than he bargained for by agreeing to construction of the airbase. "When the Americans said that in spite of the military base they would keep talking about democracy and human rights, Akayev realized that it might not be the best thing for him. It is good for the people, though," says Aliyev, whose party claims membership of 12,000 but holds no seats in parliament. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 29
  31. 31. Alisher Sabirov, an independent member of the Jogorku Kenesh - the Kyrgyz parliament - also praised the airbase, its economic impact and role in protecting Kyrgyzstan from bigger neighbours like China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. "It has an influence not just militarily," he says. "It also means that America will try to promote the politics of democracy. They can't be located here and close their eyes to what goes on." This view was backed up by an official at the US Embassy, located on the edge of this city where the Tien Shan mountain range begins. "There has been no change in policy towards human rights. We consider respect for human rights to be an important element in ensuring the success of the fight against terrorism," says the official, who asked not to be named. Kyrgyzstan's official Muslim leadership has not spoken out against the base. In a recent interview, the country's top mufti, Kimsanbai Azhy Abdurakhmanov, said: "If our government decided things this way, it is all right with us." But one underground Muslim religious group, the outlawed Hizb-ut-Tahrir party, attacked the idea of warplanes leaving from Kyrgyz soil to bomb fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. "Hasn't the time come for us to overthrow the leaders who have made us each other's enemies?" it asks rhetorically in leaflets stuffed in mailboxes in late January. While the mufti's faith in Kyrgyzstan's political leaders may not be shared by much of the populace, which has suffered a decade of grinding poverty after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, at least some people sense welcome change coming with the construction of the airbase. As one middle-aged taxi driver waiting at the airport watches white shuttle buses drop off soldiers at the airport, he comments on how the people in his nearby village were now more hopeful. "There was talk that they would buy our village," said the man, who declined to give his name. "Let them. I'll sell my home for the right price." -Dawn/The Observer News Service. THE ANALYST- WEDNESDAY/JULY 18, 2001 WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 30
  32. 32. IS HIZB-UT-TAHRIR GOING PUBLIC IN ITS STRUGGLE? Alima Bissenova The Hizb-ut-Tahrir party is officially banned in Central Asian states, and membership in the party can lead to lengthy prison terms. Although the party claims never to resort to violence, the activities of Hizb- ut-Tahrir are often labeled as extremist and terrorist by media and governments alike. Its ultimate objective is to establish an Islamic state, an objective it sets to be achieved in three stages: First, to culture masses with the thoughts and rules of Islam, second to embrace and carry Islam as a political issue; and finally, to establish an Islamic government. Recent developments in Central Asia may suggest that under intense government crackdown, the party is moving to an active political role, at least in Uzbekistan. BACKGROUND: On July 2, an action of protest took place in Tashkent and Andijan, carried out by women and children, relatives of accused Hizb-ut-Tahrir party members. In Tashkent the rally was held in the center of the city outside the hokimat building. The organization of the protest action suggests that it was well coordinated and planned to draw the attention of the international community to the gross violations of the freedom of expression and freedom of conscience perpetrated by the government of Uzbekistan. Several days in advance, an announcement about the rally was posted on an Uzbek Islamic web site and a letter addressed to the Uzbek leadership --"Talabnama" (letter of demands) was sent to diplomats and foreign organizations. The action was staged with women arriving to the hokimat in small groups, thus prolonging the duration of the rally as they were subsequently met and detained at the site by security services, who were well prepared to meet them. The action clearly reached its goal of attracting the attention of the international media and human rights organizations. The suppression of the rally by the Uzbek law enforcement agencies was broadly covered by BBC, United Press International, Agence France Press, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Radio Liberty. According to BBC and UPI reports, women were forced into the waiting buses. Those who resisted were punched and dragged. Ruslan Sharipov of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, who witnessed and filmed the rally with a hidden camera, described scenes of women being beaten and dragged by their hair and crying children. The UPI correspondent, Maria Kozlova, reported that policemen also tried to put her in a bus, and even tore her dress while dragging her. The BBC WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 31
  33. 33. interpreter reportedly was followed by the security forces to his home where he was intimidated and threatened. IMPLICATIONS: Until now the emphasis of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan has been on covert propagation of an Islamic way of life among Muslims. The party has been characterized by a high level secrecy and conspiracy that is ironically reminiscent of the Bolsheviks in Russia before the revolution. Hizb-ut-Tahrir members are organized in small circles (da’ira) of five to seven people, headed by a Mushrif. Each group member knows only the members of his/her circle and only the Mushrif knows the next stage superior. The party manifests that all its work is political in nature even when it is just spreading Islamic ideas. The goal is "changing the society’s existing thoughts to Islamic thoughts so that such thoughts become the public opinion among the people, who are then driven to implement and act upon them." Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which was founded in 1952 on the base of Palestinian branch of "Muslim Brotherhood," considers Uzbekistan to be its stronghold in Central Asia for it is "the most devoted to Islam in Central Asian Republics." In an interview with Ahmed Rashid, an anonimous party leader claimed that they have as many as eighty thousand members in Uzbekistan and that they even managed to penetrate Karimov’s regime from within. On a spectrum of different Islamic movements, Hizb-ut-Tahrir can be roughly placed in the middle as they are often criticized by the sufi groups for giving priority to politics over spirituality and at the same time by more fundamentalist movements for not accepting ahaad Hadith (hadith that were narrated by a few people as opposed to mutawatir hadith that had a great number of its reporters) into an article of faith, as well as for considering it permissible to view nude pictures, smoke, shave beards and listen to music. In its recent analysis of Hizb-ut Tahrir, Moscow’s Carnegie center states that "the fact that unlike many like-minded movements in the Middle East, Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not predisposed to a xenophobic attitude and is open for a dialogue with other confessions and ideological systems truly makes it stand out." CONCLUSION: The current political situation in Uzbekistan is such that the democratic secular opposition (Erk and Birlik parties) has been exiled from the country and fragmented. By initiating armed insurgencies in 1999 and 2000, the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan discredited itself, while creating WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 32
  34. 34. security problems for all states in Central Asia and finally making the U.S. State Department’s list of Terrorist Organizations—a fact that doesn’t contribute to its popularity in Central Asia, as western support remains vital for any opposition movement in the region. However, Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s ideas of peaceful jihad – "culturing and propagating" Islam, go along the stream with the creed of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience promoted by the West. In such a situation, coupled with economic deprivation and a lack of opposition alternatives, Hizb-ut-Tahrir becomes a viable player in the political life in Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia, steadily advancing in its battle for minds and souls. AUTHOR BIO: Alima Bissenova received her Master's degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and is currently an editorial assistant to the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst. OPPOSITION, FUNDAMENTALISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN KYRGYZSTAN Simon Churchyard: 5/1/00 On April 26, a court case opened in the southern Kyrgyzstani city of Osh in which several members of an opposition part, Hizb ut-Tahrir, faced charges of inciting interethnic hatred. The trial marked the latest stage of the Kyrgyz government's intense campaign against its political opponents. The government effort to neutralize the northern-based opposition alliance, which centers on the El and Ar-Namys parties, has received considerable attention in the international arena. The arrest of Feliks Kulov -- the head of the Ar-Namys Party who was detained on March 22, and has been dubbed a "criminal abuser of power" by the government -- has developed into a cause celebre in the West, as highlighted by Madeleine Albright during her recent visit to Bishkek. [For background see Eurasia Insight Archive] In sharp contrast, the crackdown on the southern-based political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, including the arrests and intimidation of dozens of people over recent months, has attracted little international and domestic concern. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 33
  35. 35. The Hizb ut-Tahrir members have been charged with inciting ethnic hatred under section 299 of the Kyrgyz criminal code. The wording of the law leaves it open to broad interpretation and manipulation. The charge stems from the distribution of leaflets that call for the restoration of the Caliphate, the Pan-Islamic institution abolished by Turkish nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk in 1925. The leaflets distributed by Hizb ut-Tahrir also have been critical of state-supported Islamic clerics in Uzbekistan, and of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's heavy-handed policies. The Hizb ut-Tahrir movement spread in the early 1990s throughout southern Kyrgyzstan following the collapse of the Soviet Union, helped by the work of foreign missionaries. Initially, Hizb ut- Tahrir activists concentrated their efforts on building a grassroots support base amongst common people, proselytizing during the winter months when farmers and craftsmen were idle. More recently, the movement has been distributing printed matter, including political critiques of western-supported Islamic states. Uzbekistan’s human rights practices have been a particular target. The movement, which sprung up in the 1950s in Palestine and Syria is trans-national in character. Its aim, stated in its official literature, is "to change the situation of the corrupt society so that it is transformed into an Islamic one" under a restored Caliphate. Intellectually, it represents an anti- colonial critique of nationalism as an alien ideology imposed upon the Islamic world by the West. Hizb ut-Tahrir ideology is essentially non-violent. It rejects the use of force, identifying the weapons of what it calls its "intellectual and political" struggle as the use of "thought, conviction and proof." In its campaign to discredit Hizb ut-Tahrir, Kyrgyzstani officials have engaged in the arbitrary interpretation of the country’s legal code, and have grossly misrepresented the group's aims, describing its members as 'fundamentalists.' The term "fundamentalist" has come, in common parlance, to represent a dogmatic religious bigot who refuses to accept change. Within a strictly Central Asian context, the term conjures up a picture of a bearded, gun-totting Muslim terrorists. Incumbent authorities not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in other Central Asian regions, have not hesitated to tar opponents as fundamentalists. They have used the alleged fundamentalist threat as justification for state repression of individual liberty. In this spirit, Kyrgyz authorities have WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 34
  36. 36. attempted to conflate the Hizb ut-Tahrir with the guerrillas who instigated the Batken hostage crisis of 1999. This has been done in speeches which cleverly switch between the terms 'Wahhabi', 'terrorist', 'religious extremist,' 'fundamentalist' and Hizb ut-Tahrir. Because the term has developed such strong resonance by playing on certain North American and European fears and prejudices, the West has been cautious about opposing human rights abuses committed by Kyrgyzstan under the cover of combating fundamentalism. The lack of attention given in the West to the persecution of the Hizb ut-Tahrir has potentially harmful implications for the development of civil society in Kyrgyzstan. The attacks may be a precursor to an assault on the freedom of other groups. For example, a recent article in the leading government ideological newspaper 'Kyrgyz Tuusu' combined a polemic against these two movements into an attack on Christian, Bahai and Krishna groups in Kyrgyzstan. In describing leaders of these peaceful faiths as' criminal abusers of power' and 'religious extremists' it combined both the discourses it has used to delegitimize Hizb ut-Tahrir and Ar-Namys. It ended with a chilling call to bring these people to criminal prosecution. Even though they have broken no laws, their labeling as 'fundamentalists' and 'religious extremists' may well prove enough for the state to justify persecuting them. One can only speculate with alarm at who will be the next target after them. Posted May 1, 2000 ©Eurasianet WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 35
  37. 37. APPENDIX 2 Human Rights Reports This section contains collated reports and articles from Human Rights organisation highlighting the persecution and rights abuses against the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 36
  38. 38. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORTS Uzbekistan: Round-up of Women Linked to Islamic Groups (New York, May 1, 2002) The government of Uzbekistan is extending its crackdown against independent Muslims to include women, Human Rights Watch said today. In the past two weeks, police in Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley have detained dozens of women. Some stand accused of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamic group, and others have relatives who are in jail for their religious affiliations. "The authorities in Uzbekistan have already detained thousands of men for their affiliation with peaceful Islamic groups," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. "Now they're rounding up women." On April 23, police broke up two protests by several dozen women in Tashkent's old city and in Margilan, a city in the Ferghana Valley. The women were protesting the state's harsh actions against independent Muslims. Many were also demanding the release of their male relatives who are serving prison terms for their religious affiliations. In Tashkent, police detained between nine and eighteen women and their children, including babies. Journalists and others who witnessed the incident told Human Rights Watch that officers descended upon the group, herded many of the protesters onto buses, and took them to an undisclosed location. Police disbanded the other demonstrators. In Margilan, police detained at least nine women and dispersed about forty-five others. Authorities currently require scores of overtly pious Muslim women, particularly those who wear headscarves partially covering their faces, to sign monthly or even weekly statements pledging not to participate in unauthorized meetings or gatherings and not to join any "religious sects." Until recently, however, few women had been arrested. "We've seen a steady rise in the number of people, particularly women, willing to risk the WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 37
  39. 39. enormously dangerous move of peacefully voicing their dissent," said Andersen. "The latest round of detentions shows that the government does not intend to relent on the campaign against independent Islam." Uzbekistan is a predominately Muslim country, where the government closely regulates religion. Some Muslims practice Islam beyond state controls. The government has intensified its efforts against women who are alleged members of Hizb ut- Tahrir (Party of Liberation), an Islamic group that calls for the peaceful reestablishment of the Caliphate in Central Asia. Uzbek authorities routinely prosecute those accused of affiliation with the group on charges of anti-state activities or possession or distribution of "illegal religious materials." Human Rights Watch observed two recent trials of women charged with Hizb ut-Tahrir membership. The first, involving four women-Aiazimkhon Yakbalkhojaeva, Tursunoi Rashidova, Arofat Khakimova, and Lazokat Avazova-continues this week in Tashkent. According to the defendants, the court failed to give them adequate advance notification of the trial date in which to communicate with legal counsel and prepare a defense, and instead summoned several of them by phone in early April just an hour before the hearing was due to begin. The prosecution gave the defendants a copy of the indictment against them only after several days of trial hearings. The defendants had no prior notification of the charges they faced. The second trial, also in Tashkent, concluded on April 24 with four women convicted for membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir: Nasiba Uzakova; Nargiza Usmanova; Mukhtabar Omonturdieva; and Fatima Khamroboeva. The women testified that their religious activities consisted of meeting privately for prayer and Islamic study. One of the women testified in court that police beat them or threatened physical violence to coerce confessions and to "punish" them for their activities. Sentences ranged from two years of probation to four years of imprisonment. These are relatively lenient terms in Uzbekistan, where an estimated 7,000 independent Muslims have been sentenced to up to twenty years in prison for their religious beliefs, affiliations, and practices. The husband of defendant Nasiba Uzakova had been sentenced to fifteen years in prison in 2000, WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 38
  40. 40. also on charges of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership. At trial, the judge announced that yet another group of women would soon be brought up on religious charges, including one of Uzakova's relatives, Musharraf Usmonova. At the time, Usmonova had been in custody for a week, while police withheld information about her whereabouts. On the night of April 14, 2002, a group of policemen and close to forty unidentified men in civilian dress had burst into the Usmonov household, searched the premises and, though they found no illicit materials, took Musharraf Usmonova to an undisclosed location. For seven days police refused to inform her relatives of her whereabouts or even confirm that she had been detained. Usmonova's "disappearance" ended on April 22-the day that the judge in the Uzakova case announced Usmonova's upcoming trial-when her lawyer finally learned of her whereabouts. The authorities continue to deny Usmonova access to her lawyer, and her conditions in custody are not known. "It's hard to imagine a more dangerous situation for Usmonova," said Andersen. "There's a real threat of torture during pretrial custody in Uzbekistan, particularly when the detainee is held incommunicado." Five of Musharraf Usmonova's children (ranging in age from four to sixteen) were detained until evening following their participation in the protest on April 23. Usmonova's family has been devastated by the official crackdown on independent Islam. In June 1999, police detained and tortured to death Usmonova's husband, Farkhod, the son of a well- known imam. Also in June 1999, Usmonova's then seventeen-year-old son was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison for "anti-state activities;" he was later released. Farkhod Usmonov's youngest brother, Muhammadjon, was sentenced to eleven years in prison, for alleged possession of a religious magazine; he was also released. Usmonov's brother Ravkhat was sentenced to fourteen years on a variety of charges related to alleged religious and "anti-state" activity. Usmonova's brothers, Shukrullo and Faizullo Agzamov, were sentenced to seven and seventeen years in prison, respectively. Abdukarim Rashidov, also a relative, was sentenced to eleven years. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 39
  41. 41. Uzbekistan Human Rights watch The government of Uzbekistan has systematically arrested thousands of peaceful Muslims in recent years, justifying these violations in part as a necessary element of its campaign against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an armed insurgent group primarily based in Afghanistan that launced cross border incursions into Uzbekistan in 2000 and Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000. The Uzbek government campaign against independent Islam targets Muslims who practice their religion beyond the tight restrictions imposed by the government - participating in private prayer groups, following imams out of favor with the state, joining religious organizations banned by the stae, and distributing literature not sanctioned by the state. Victims face charges of "anti-state activity" or "attempted subversion of the constitutional order," with sentences of up to 20 years in prison. Torture of detainees in routine, resulting in a number of deaths in custody. The U.S. government has linked the IMU to Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. Uzbek President Islam Karimov is taking advantage of this linkage to further justify his government's crackdown on peaceful believers in the name of anti-terrorism. On October 9, he stated that, "Indifference to, and tolerance of, those with evil intentions who are spreading various fabrications, handing out leaflets, committing theft and sedition in some neighborhoods and who are spreading propaganda on behalf of religion should be recognized as being supportive of these evil-doers." On January 14, 2002, police spokesman Davlatov justified the actions of four policemen charged with the October death in custody of Ravshan Haidov, an accused member of the Islamic group Hizb-ut- Tahrir, by claiming that the group was responsible for the events of September 11. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which employs anti-Semitic and anti-American rhetoric, is banned in Uzbekistan for espousing the establishment of a Caliphate, but it has not been implicated in acts of violence. Nevertheless, on January 30, the policemen were found guilty of "inflicting bodily harm that caused death" and each was sentenced to 20 years in prison. WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 40
  42. 42. Memorandum to the U.S. Government Regarding Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan August 10, 2001 INTRODUCTION This memorandum outlines Human Rights Watch's most pressing concerns about the systematic religious persecution of independent Muslims in today's Uzbekistan, where the government is pursuing a campaign of unlawful arrest, incommunicado detention, torture, unfair trials, and incarceration of non- violent believers. Human Rights Watch has maintained an office in Tashkent since 1996, from which it has conducted research in eight provinces in Uzbekistan and all thirteen districts of Tashkent, compiling documentation on more than 800 individual cases of religious persecution and interviewing victims and their relatives in more than 200 of those cases. The evidence presented below is only a small portion of the documentation on Uzbek religious persecution gathered by Human Rights Watch during two years of monitoring trials, interviewing officials, lawyers, victims, and their relatives. It draws upon direct examination of evidence that ranges from court documents to the inspection of physical remains of victims evidently tortured to death in custody. The government of Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov contends that the affected persons are prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms because of their intent to overthrow the state or commit acts of terror. But of the thousands who have been detained, harassed, tortured, and imprisoned since the religious persecution intensified in 1999, only very few have been charged with specific violent acts; even more rarely have the authorities produced credible evidence to support charges of the use or advocacy of violence. Human Rights Watch is convinced that the measures against independent Muslims in Uzbekistan constitute religious persecution. This stems primarily from WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 41
  43. 43. these individuals' adherence to-or in many cases, even their superficial interest in or exposure to the tenets of-certain variations of Islam unacceptable to the governing authorities. The government's campaign against independent Muslims has far exceeded the bounds of legitimate security measures to enforce the law and to counter terrorism and other violence. In doing so it is in clear violation of international human rights standards, particularly the right to freedom of religion. The government continues to unlawfully arrest and detain people who pray in mosques not run by the government, who belong to Islamic groups not registered with the government, who possess Islamic literature not generated by the government, or who meet privately for prayer or Islamic study, singling them out for nothing more than the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs. RECOMMENDATIONS: UZBEKISTAN AND THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT Human Rights Watch therefore urges the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to recommend that the Bush administration designate Uzbekistan as a "country of particular concern" for religious freedom, as provided under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). We further urge the Bush administration to designate Uzbekistan as a country of particular concern. Under IRFA section 405, such a designation would require the Bush administration to take appropriate action with regard to Uzbekistan including, but not limited to, public condemnation in bilateral and multilateral fora, and the conditioning of state or other visits and of financial or security assistance on Uzbekistan's progress toward ending abuses outlined in this memorandum.1 IRFA section 402 (b) requires the executive to designate as countries of particular concern those that "have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom... during the preceding 12 months..." IRFA section 3 (13) includes in its definition of "violations of religious freedom" the detention, interrogation, and imprisonment of individuals "if committed on account of their religious belief or practice." Under IRFA section 3 (11), "particularly severe violations of religious freedom" mean that the legal and practical suppression of religious beliefs is combined with systematic torture or "other WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 42
  44. 44. flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of persons." As described below, these conditions are amply met in Uzbekistan, where in addition to torture and prolonged incommunicado detention and denial of due process of law the targets of the religious persecution campaign are subjected to public shaming, ostracism, and surveillance. The U.S. government itself has repeatedly expressed concern about violations of religious freedom of independent Muslims in Uzbekistan. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000 notes that in Uzbekistan: "The security forces arbitrarily arrested or detained pious Muslims...on false charges, frequently planting narcotics, weapons and forbidden literature on them.... The Government harassed and arrested hundreds of Islamic leaders and believers on questionable grounds, citing the threat of extremism."2 The report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for 2000 uncritically reported the Uzbek government's view on these matters: the Karimov government, it noted, "does not consider repression of these groups to be a matter of religious freedom, but instead to be directed against those who oppose the political order." In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. administration did not designate Uzbekistan a country of particular concern for religious freedom. We are pleased that the commission's report of May 2001 notes that Uzbekistan is a "serious violator" of religious freedom, but this does not bear the same consequences as designation as a country of particular concern. And the legal designation is warranted, because a constant feature of the current crackdown has been that those arrested are explicitly pursued and prosecuted for and because of their religious activity-whether individual or group prayer, Koranic study, or discussions or publications about their faith. Below, we divide the abuses into the four main categories set out in IRFA as criteria for countries of particular concern for religious freedom: detention and arrest, extrajudicial executions (cases in which detainees have been tortured to death), torture more generally, and social punishment that recalls the Stalin-era practice of publicly humiliating and ostracizing those believed to espouse views inimical to the state.3 WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 43
  45. 45. The victims and their relatives describe their activities as essentially studying Islam. Some, though not all, religious detainees support the reestablishment of the Caliphate (Islamic state) in Uzbekistan. Fundamentalist religious movements typically reject separation between the sacred and secular spheres, but this does not explain away the essentially religious nature of these movements. The U.S. government has, commendably, taken a strong stance against the persecution of the small Christian community in Uzbekistan. To overlook or misinterpret the anti-religious content of the government's campaign against independent Muslims cannot but create the impression for the Uzbek government- and others-that the U.S. is concerned only with Christian religious freedom and not with the rights of Muslim believers. It sends the unintended message that the U.S. government is willing to countenance the massive persecution of religious believers so long as that persecution is labeled anti-terrorist. Human Rights Watch is well aware of the offensive content of some literature generated by independent Muslim organizations in Uzbekistan. Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), an organization whose leadership and members have been especially targeted since 1999, publishes tracts that are anti- Semitic, antithetical to the rights of women, and intolerant of others' beliefs. But the views of the U.S. government on this should not impede it from taking appropriate action on the Uzbek government's violation of religious believers' fundamental rights to physical integrity, due process of law, and freedom of expression-all subsumed under an attack on freedom of religion A NOTE ON ISLAM IN UZBEKISTAN More than 80 percent of the population of Uzbekistan is Muslim; the vast majority adheres to the Hannafi school of Sunnism. During the Soviet era the Muslim Board of Central Asia and Kazakhstan controlled Islamic worship and study, regulating the registration of mosques, appointing imams to lead local congregations, and dictating the content of sermons and Islamic practice. The agency survived Uzbekistan's transition to independence in 1991, becoming the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan and retaining its responsibility for the regulation and restriction of the population's religious beliefs and practices. Independence gave rise to a revival of popular interest in Islam, which the government sought to use as a tool in building national identity and solidifying its monopoly on power.4 During this revival, WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 44
  46. 46. some imams began to preach without deference to the Muslim Board, communities founded mosques that were not registered by the board, and a variety of Islamic literature not approved by the board became available. The brief period of relative tolerance came to an end in 1992 when the Karimov administration, having defeated its political rivals, turned its attention to Islam, which it apparently perceived as a similar threat to its hold on power. BACKGROUND ON THE CAMPAIGN OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION The period 1992 to 1997, when the Uzbek government sought to establish strict state control over religious activity, was punctuated by sporadic arrests and "disappearances" of prominent independent Muslim leaders. The murders of several police officers and government officials in December 1997 in the province of Namangan provided the pretext for the Karimov government to crackdown more heavily on independent Islam, portraying it as a threat to the country's stability. Authorities closed independent mosques, and began arresting Muslim believers for having attended religious services of imams who had run afoul of the government or for manifesting their faith by wearing beards. Hundreds arrested during this period remain in prison today. The crackdown developed into a systematic, widescale campaign that intensified following the first significant incident of political violence in Uzbekistan-a series of bombings near government buildings in Tashkent in February 1999 that killed sixteen people and wounded more than one hundred. Police undertook mass sweeps of entire neighborhoods throughout the country, and the government expanded the targets of the repression to include relatives of suspected independent Muslims. Increasing numbers of men were sent to Jaslyk prison in Karakalpakstan, a place infamous for its harsh treatment of prisoners. In 1999 and 2000, Uzbek militants based abroad-known as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan- launched armed incursions into Uzbekistan and neighboring Kyrgyzstan. In 2000, the Karimov government used the fighting as another pretext to justify the continued arrests. The government enacted laws restricting and forbidding certain peaceful religious practices and activities, in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 45
  47. 47. Uzbekistan is a party.5 Article 18 of the Covenant provides that: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.... This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.6 A May 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, together with amendments to Uzbekistan's criminal and administrative codes, bans all religious activity and organizations not registered with the state, including private religious education7 and the distribution of literature deemed "extremist,"8 and sets out criminal penalties for leaders who fail to register their groups.9 The 1998 law also forbids proselytizing and religious dress in public for non-clerics.10 In addition, under subsequent amendments to the criminal code, any manifestation of belief or exchange of information deemed by the state to have "religious extremist" content was subject to harsh penalties. Though police frequently plant evidence to facilitate prosecution on drugs or weapons charges-and invoke articles of the criminal code including attempts to overthrow the state11-these clumsy tactics cannot conceal the religious basis of the persecution. The government's campaign targets those perceived by the authorities to be adherents of "Wahhabism," a term suggesting a radical form of Islamic belief.12 The government has misapplied this term to refer to religious observance that takes place outside strict state controls. Thus, the label is applied to those who engage in private prayer alone or with others or engage in the private study of religion, i.e. study beyond state oversight. The state also brands as "Wahhabi" any person suspected of following or having been associated with Muslim leaders who have displayed independence from or been critical of the government, specifically those who have favored the establishment of an Islamic state in the territory of Uzbekistan or the incorporation of Shari'a as the law of the land. Those who proselytize for strict observance of Muslim prayer or who learn Arabic to study the Koran in the original are labeled "Wahhabis," as are men who grow beards as a mark of piety and women who wear certain WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 46
  48. 48. kinds of headscarves. Aside from "Wahhabism" and its supposed leaders, the government targets specific Islamic organizations, primarily the unregistered group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which it has defined as an "illegal religious organization." The group espouses the creation of a Caliphate, or Islamic state, through peaceful means. Memorial, the Russian human rights group, has estimated that more than half of the 1,042 religiously and politically motivated arrests that had been documented for the period January 1999 through April 2000 involved people accused of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership.13 In nearly all of the hundreds of Hizb ut-Tahrir cases reviewed by Human Rights Watch, as in the vast majority of the thousands of cases of people caught up in the crackdown, the state did not accuse Hizb ut-Tahrir members of involvement in any violent act, much less prove that they were involved in violence, and further failed to show that belief in an Islamic form of government was tantamount to action to overthrow the Karimov administration. UNLAWFUL ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS: 1999-2001 In April 1999, stepping up anti-dissident rhetoric in the wake of the February bombings, President Karimov publicly vowed to deal harshly with perceived enemies of the state-and with their entire families if necessary. He said, "The fathers who have brought them up will be brought to account together with their children. If necessary, I will sign a decree on this."14 The president did not have to sign a decree; the head of the country's law enforcement agency treated his words themselves as law, and almost immediately declared that the state would exact severe punishment on members of "dogmatic and extremist groups" who failed to surrender to police, and on their fathers.15 Once arrested, independent Muslims faced torture in pre-trial detention, including sustained physical torture and various forms of psychological abuse, including threats against and detention of their nearest relatives. Torture was facilitated by long periods of incommunicado detention, from several weeks to several months, during which lawyers and relatives could neither offer aid nor verify a detainee's physical state. Those arrested were most commonly charged with attempted overthrow of WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 47
  49. 49. the constitutional order,16 preparation, possession or distribution of materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, or fundamentalism,17 and membership in a forbidden religious organization.18 Unfair trials followed: legal counsel was frequently obstructed or denied; judges routinely accepted coerced confessions, ignored recantations, and refused to hear evidence of the torture used to extract self-incriminating statements. Convictions were handed down, even in the face of risibly inadequate or planted evidence-two bullets, five bullets, or some pamphlets, "discovered" on a third or fourth inspection of a home. Sentences ranged up to twenty years in prison. Prison conditions were inhumane, and prisoners suffered ill treatment and torture. Group Trials Arrests and trials of groups of detainees as alleged co-conspirators have been common since 1999, with a rough average of fifteen people prosecuted together. This method of prosecution suggests an urgency to produce convictions and to move large numbers of detainees through the judicial system; it also permits prosecutors to focus on one main defendant, coerce other defendants into accusing him of serious crimes, and then accuse those lesser defendants of association with him and with failing to inform the authorities of his illegal activities. Some examples follow. • Thirteen men were tried in June and July 1999 for activities that-even according to the prosecution-involved no more than the exchange of ideas about religion; the state did not charge them with violation of any other article of the criminal code. Defendant Danior Hojimetov argued in court, "Each citizen has the right to express his views. We expressed ideas against the constitution, but I think this is freedom of expression."19 He was sentenced to twelve years in prison. • In another group case, involving twelve defendants, Judge Akmadjonov of the Tashkent City Court explained their crimes as follows: "[T]hey said they did not carry out actions against the WWW. WAR-AGAINST-TERRORISM.INFO 48