(This report covers the period January-December 1997) Two imprisoned Islamic leaders were possible prisoners of conscience. Scores of possible prisoners of conscience were detained and ill-treated following the murder of several officials. One human rights activist was beaten by police. One Islamic activist reportedly "disappeared" and three others remained "disappeared". At least two executions took place. Further death sentences were believed to have been passed and carried out, but no reliable information was available. In January the Ministry of Justice refused registration to the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. The Society, which had formerly operated underground and in exile, had been officially invited to submit a registration application (see Amnesty International Report 1997, which mistakenly reported actual registration). In May the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan applied to the city government of Tashkent, the capital, to hold a founding congress; this was one of the procedures required for registration. The city government failed to respond to the application ahead of the congress's scheduled date, thereby effectively denying registration to the organization. In December the Ministry of Justice refused to register the organization, stating that the address on the application form was incomplete.   In May, following military action in northern Afghanistan, the Uzbek authorities closed the border crossing point on the Amu Darya river which provided the safest route back to Tajikistan for thousands of Tajiks who sought refuge in Afghanistan in 1992, at the height of Tajikistan's civil war, and who were returning as part of a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr) repatriation program. Refugees and distributors of humanitarian aid were permitted to cross by barge following talks between President Islam Karimov and senior UN officials, but the bridge over the river remained closed. Two leaders of Islamic congregations not affiliated to the state-regulated Muslim Spiritual Directorate were possible prisoners of conscience. Abdurauf Gafurov, formerly the elected kazi (Muslim judge) of the Fergana Valley, was serving a two-year prison sentence for "disobeying the legal demands of the penitentiary administration" imposed in December 1996. The charge had been brought one week before a previous three-year term of imprisonment for "embezzlement of state and social property through misuse of official position" was due to expire. In 1994 he had been convicted of possession of narcotics and so failed to qualify for release under an amnesty; this charge was brought only three weeks before the amnesty was due to come into effect. It appeared possible that the charges against Abdurauf Gafurov had been fabricated, and that the real motive for his continuing imprisonment was to prevent him from playing a prominent role in the unregistered Islamic community. At the end of the year he was held in Kyzyl-tepe corrective labour colony in Navoiy region, which was said to have some of the worst prison conditions in Uzbekistan. In June Rakhmat Otakulov, a religious teacher, was sentenced to three and a half years' imprisonment for possession of illegal weapons and narcotics. He had been detained for questioning in April – ostensibly about a road traffic accident – but after a search of his car and home, police claimed to have discovered bullets and narcotics. According to reports, the arresting officers' evidence, which formed the basis for the charges against him, was not seriously scrutinized in court, and two civilians enlisted by the police as witnesses to the searches of Rakhmat Otakulov's car and home gave contradictory evidence under cross-examination. It was feared that the charges against Rakhmat Otakulov may have been fabricated and that the incriminating evidence had been planted by police; this was an established practice used against political opponents of the government, particularly during 1993 and 1994 In December more than 100 people were reported to have been arbitrarily detained in the eastern town of Namangan following the murder of several police officers and regional officials. Police reportedly detained young men with beards arbitrarily, calling them "Wahhabists" (members of a strict Islamic sect). All those detained were reported to have been beaten and ill-treated in detention. It was alleged that weapons and narcotics were openly planted on some detainees in order to fabricate a criminal case against them. Abdumalik Nazarov, the youngest brother of independent Islamic leader Obidkhon Nazarov, was detained in late December at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border together with his father and an older brother. He was held in pre-trial detention in Fergana and later charged with possession of narcotics. It was alleged that the narcotics were planted by police officers during a search of the car. Abdumalik Nazarov and his brother Umarkhon had been detained for questioning in Namangan several days earlier. In December Mikhail Ardzinov, chairman of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, was detained by police in Samarkand for 20 hours, badly beaten, and forcibly returned to Tashkent. He had travelled to Samarkand with Jomol Mirsaidov, a member of the Independent Human Rights Organization and leader of the Tajik minority in Uzbekistan, to attend a constituent meeting of the National Culture Centre of ethnic Tajiks. Jomol Mirsaidov was also detained and sentenced to 10 days' administrative arrest. It was alleged that the two men were detained in order to prevent the constituent meeting of the National Culture Centre of ethnic Tajiks from taking place. Albert Musin, a journalist and monitor of human rights developments in central Asia living in exile, was detained in February by Moscow police but released in early March, shortly after Uzbek Embassy officials in Moscow stated that his extradition to Uzbekistan was not being sought. In September Nematjon Parpier, an Islamic activist from Andizhan, reportedly "disappeared". He was an assistant to Abduvali Mirzoyev (see below) and was apparently involved in an independent investigation into the "disappearance" of Abduvali Mirzoyev when he himself reportedly "disappeared". There was no further information concerning Abdullo Utayev and Abduvali Mirzoyev, two Islamic religious activists who "disappeared" in 1992 and 1995, respectively (see previous Amnesty International Reports). In February 1997 the Internal Affairs Directorate of the city of Andizhan placed a "missing person's" appeal in the local newspaper on behalf of Ramazan Matkarimov, who "disappeared" in 1995 with Abduvali Mirzoyev. Death sentences were believed to have been passed and carried out, but no official information was available. At least two executions took place. The true figure was believed to be much higher. Information came to light of five death sentences passed in 1996 in addition to the 12 reported in Amnesty International Report 1997. Tuychi Akhtamov, Khusnitdin Kasymov, Saitniyaz Sharipov and Yodgor Toshpulatov had been convicted of drug-trafficking; Aleksandr Korneyev had been sentenced to death for murder. There were fears that they faced imminent execution. The organization also learned that Jahongir Gofurov, sentenced to death in 1995, had been executed in May 1996. His death certificate, however, was only issued in January 1997 and then passed to his mother. A clemency petition in the case of Shokir Davronov, sentenced to death in 1994, was still outstanding in early 1997. However, it was feared that he may have been executed but the information withheld from his family. Amnesty International called for a full judicial review of the cases of Abdurauf Gafurov and Rakhmat Otakulov. The organization called for the disclosure of the charges against all those arrested in Namangan and for a full and impartial inquiry into the allegations of beatings and ill-treatment. It sought further information about the charges against Abdumalik Nazarov and called for investigations into the beating of Mikhail Ardzinov and the administrative arrest of Jomol Mirsaidov. Amnesty International called for clarification of the whereabouts of Nematjon Parpier and the organization continued to seek information concerning the three missing Islamic activists. It called on the President to commute all death sentences and to abolish the death penalty.

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