Uzbekistan: Officials mum on terror trial
|Publication Date||23 September 2009|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Uzbekistan: Officials mum on terror trial, 23 September 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ac62c3c1c.html [accessed 23 September 2014]|
In Uzbekistan, justice may not be blind, but officials in the judicial system seem to turn mute when asked for details about legal proceedings.
The third session of a trial involving suspects accused of carrying out terror attacks last May is believed to have occurred on September 23. Basic details of the proceedings could not be confirmed, however, because officials won't, or can't, answer the fundamental questions of journalistic inquiry: who, what, when and where.
President Islam Karimov earlier vowed that the trial would be open and media-accessible. In practice, officials are treating the case as they would a state secret – neither confirming, nor denying, its existence.
At least 12 defendants are said to be accused of a playing role in the attacks, sources inside Uzbekistan have told EurasiaNet. However neither the names of the defendants, nor the exact charges against them, can be confirmed.
Judge Abdukhokim Turaev, a criminal courts judge in Andijan District Court, is said to be presiding over the case. Lawyers for the accused are believed to be state-appointed, and are not from Andijan city.
Reached by telephone, various Uzbek authorities would not confirm these details. All who spoke by phone seemed well-versed in the art of evasion.
"We don't deal with those cases. Address the questions to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan," a spokesperson at the General Prosecutor's Office in Tashkent said on September 18.
An employee at the Supreme Court, reached on September 22, actually stated that a trial session would take place "tomorrow," (i.e., September 23) But then the official darted back behind the wall of obfuscation.
"I can't give you the name of the judge," the official said. "I don't know how many people are accused. You can address the questions to the Tashkent District Court because the case is under its [jurisdiction]. But they won't tell you anything because although this case is under their [jurisdiction] the trial will be held somewhere else, I don't know where. I can't give you their phone number because I am not supposed to."
A representative of the Tashkent District Court would neither confirm nor deny the case is under its jurisdiction and advised that any faxed request for information would take at least three days to process.
A spokesperson at Andijan District Court, where the trial is supposedly being held, said: "I can't give you any comments by phone. How do I know you're for real? If you want comments, you have to come to the court and ask questions."
Finally, the Ministry of Justice completed the run-around circle by referring EurasiaNet back to the General Prosecutor's Office. "We don't deal with those cases. It is not in our competence. You should address the questions, I don't know, maybe to the General Prosecutor's office?" a spokesperson for the Ministry suggested on September 22.
An attempt was made to contact President Islam Karimov's office. But no one in the administration could be reached for comment.
An independent source inside Uzbekistan provided unconfirmed information about the case against the accused terrorists. According to the source, trial sessions occurred on September 9 and 16, prior to the scheduled session on the 23rd. "It is very hard to get in [to the court]," the source said. "The relatives don't talk much either, they are scared. I know only that 12 people are accused, but I can't say on what charges."
"Each accused person is allowed to have three relatives in the court room, that's a lot of people for a small Uzbek court room," the source continued. "The lawyers are from the peripheral districts and not from Andijan. I've seen the lawyers and the relatives of the accused talk, and the lawyers were asking relatives to gather papers for the case. Nobody knows anything."
Human rights observers who made formal applications to attend the trail have not received responses.
The Islamic Jihad Union, reputedly a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), claimed responsibility for the May 26 attack on a border outpost in Khanabad and a suicide bomb in downtown Andijan.
"We will find the sponsors of those who were involved in this," Karimov said in the aftermath of the attacks. On June 4, Uzbek media outlets reported that he had instructed his Prosecutor General to prepare for "an open and fair trial".
Prosecutor General Rashid Kadyrov said back then that he would ensure "the creation of conditions for broad trial coverage in both local and foreign media." But since then, actions appear to have diverged from words.