Uzbek Authorities Round Up Suspected Islamists
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||16 April 2012|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbek Authorities Round Up Suspected Islamists, 16 April 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f97cb2c2.html [accessed 23 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Human rights defenders in Uzbekistan say the government has launched a new round of arrests of people it suspects of Islamist activity.
The Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders said on April 6 that 11 people known to be observant Muslims were arrested in the Tashkent region and 14 in the western city of Bukhara, in the fourth sweep of its kind since December.
The rights group's leader Surat Ikramov described a clear pattern where suspects were taken into custody and initially brought before a judge for some minor alleged offence, which then made it possible to hold them for longer while serious charges were drawn up.
"Five to eight police officers come to the home of religious people, conduct a search without a warrant, and take the suspect away," he said. "It's always the same scenario. These [minor] accusations allow the police to obtain an arrest warrant to hold the individual for ten to 154 days, in which time they contrive criminal cases relating to religious extremism."
In December, for example, 20 young men were arrested in the Altynkul district of the eastern Andijan region, and ended up being accused of "Wahhabi" activity – which in Uzbekistan is a term loosely applied to any Islamic trend the authorities believe to be fundamentalist.
Human rights activists in Uzbekistan believe the country's prison system currently contains around 5,000 individuals convicted on charges related to religious extremism.
In its 2012 report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom describes Uzbekistan as a "country of particular concern".
Once in detention, suspects and convicts are liable to face mistreatment.
"The statistics indicate that every year, Uzbek prisons return the bodies of around 200 religious prisoners to their relatives," Ikramov said. "It's apparent that most of them died after suffering torture."
In the most recent know case of its kind, Prison Camp 64/46 in the Navoi region sent home the body of 41-year-old Abdurahmon Sagdiev to his relatives. He was serving a 13-year term for membership of the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Earlier, in May and June, three more religious men died under severe tortures in Uzbek prisons. According to Surat Ikramov, all of those cases have relevant forensic reports.