Andijan is located in a politically sensitive region where it has been unruly for a longer time. In recent weeks many people have been arrested on suspicion of membership of muslim groups said to want to overthrow the government. The last few weeks demonstrators took to the street to peacefully demand the release of the arrested young men who are accused of muslim extremism.
Friday the protest escalated with the storming of the prison. [..] The BBC reports possibly 4000 detainees walking around armed in Andijan, other sources talk of several hundred men. They include political prisoners but also sentenced criminals.
Also armed men are sais to have attacked a military basis a mile and a half out, where five hundred soldiers were based. Most of the soldiers fled and hid in nearby housing blocks, according to eyewitnesses.
Protests continue in Uzbekistan
The situation remains tense in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon, after a jailbreak there last night. Thousands of demonstrators are demanding a hearing with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, who has travelled to the city. The protesters say they have occupied a number of buildings and are holding 15 police officers hostage. The authorities in the capital Tashkent have denied this.
The immediate cause for the rioting is the trial of 23 businessmen for alleged membership of a banned Islamic group. On thursday night, demonstrators stormed a prison and freed hundreds of inmates. Nine people died in the shooting.
Protesters say the autocratic Mr Karimov is using the fight against terrorism to silence any form of opposition in the country. In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, President Askar Akajev was forced to resign last month, after an angry crowd took over government buildings.
Up to 5,000 refugees from Uzbekistan gather on Uzbek-Kyrgyz border14.05.2005
BISHKEK, May 14 (Itar-Tass) - Up to 5,000 refugees from Uzbekistan's Andizhan region have gathered on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.
Refugees managed to reconstruct the destroyed bridge to cross to the neighbouring country.
Neither Uzbek nor Kyrgyz border guards control the situation in the area.
Several groups of reporters have already crossed through the bridge to Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan, witnesses said.
Billowing smoke is seen over Andizhan from Kyrgyzstan. The distance from the Kyrgyz border to the city is about 30 kilometres.
An Associated Press reporter in Andijan saw 23 bodies.
One witness, Daniyar Akbarov, 24, said he saw at least 300 dead.
Here we have had reports that all journalists were forced to leave Andishan last night.
Couldn't find a source in English.
There is some really bad Soviet-style crackdown stuff happening--and it appears it is being orchestrated by the "US ally" guy.
The WH and State Department are calling for a stop in the KGB methods--but I wonder if we'll be foced to make a more dramatic stand...
Armed Muslim terrorist sympathizers freed 2000 Muslim prisoners--and this melee ensued.
"UZBEKISTAN: Increased jailing of Muslims for being Muslim"
by Igor Rotar ("Forum 18," February 25, 2005)
There has recently been an increase in trials in which Muslim religious convictions form part of the case against devout Muslims, Forum 18 News Service has noted. Thus, unusually, Uzbekistan has this month jailed two followers (adepts) of Sufi Islam, a movement which was supported by the authorities but which they now view with great suspicion. Also jailed were eight Muslims whose only crime seems to have been forming a kind of "club" of like-minded people, who discussed religion and read the Koran, as well as Mannobjon Rahmatullaev, who was kidnapped from Russia and sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment. The trial of 23 Muslim businessmen, who are accused of belonging to an Islamic charitable organisation continues. Before now, devout Muslims put on trial by the authorities were usually only accused of terrorist activity without any convincing evidence. Protestant Christians, the relics of Russian Orthodox saints and martyrs, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, have all also recently been targeted by the authorities.
In a relatively rare move, Uzbekistan has this month jailed two followers (adepts) of Sufi Islam, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. On 17 February, judge Muhiddin Saifuddinov of the Tashkent regional criminal court jailed Abdurashid Toshmatov and Nurali Umrzokov for six years. The charges against the accused, both of whom said they were innocent of any crime, were that they had broken article 159 (undermining the constitutional order) and 244-1 (preparation or distribution of materials containing a threat to public security and public order) of the Criminal Code.
Tashkent human rights activist Suret Ikramov, who attended the hearings, told Forum 18 that it became clear during the trial that both Muslims are adherents of the Sufi Naqshbandi order. Ikramov believes the case against the two men was completely fabricated and that they had no connection to the banned Islamist Hizb-ut-Tahrir movement. "Hizb-ut-Tahrir leaflets were planted on them during their arrest and they were cruelly tortured in the investigation prison to try to get them to confess," he told Forum 18 from Tashkent on 21 February.
However, it is noteworthy that neither Toshmatov nor Umrzokov were sentenced directly for being Sufi adepts. Ikramov told Forum 18 that he believes they simply fell victim to a "quota" for unmasking "religious extremists" imposed by the Uzbek authorities and so, as is frequently the case in Uzbekistan, incriminating leaflets were planted on them.
At least a quarter of Muslims in Uzbekistan are thought to use some elements of Sufism in their religious practice. Until recently, Sufism was openly supported by the authorities as an alternative to Islamic fundamentalism, which calls for Islam to be cleansed of regional accretions and for a return to the original Islam of the time of the prophet Mohammed. But at present, the authorities do not support Sufism and the NSS secret police regards the Sufist "myurid" (discipleship) system as a possible terrorist organisation.
Recently the number of trials in which Islamic believers' religious convictions feature in the case against them has increased. Before now, Muslim believers were usually accused of terrorist activity without any convincing evidence. Tashkent human rights activist Mikhail Ardzinov told Forum 18 from Tashkent on 21 February of the recent case against eight so-called "Wahhabis" in the capital. On 14 February Tashkent City Criminal Court sentenced Ismatullo Kudratov to 7 years' imprisonment, Dilshod Yuldashev to 7 years, Batyr Yuldashev to 7 years, Hasan Asretdinov to 6 years, Abdullo Nurmatov to five and a half years, Karim Ziyayev to five and a half years, Eamberdiyev to five years and Negmajan Ermatov to five and a half years, all under article 244-2, part 1 of the Criminal Code (forming religious extremist organisations). "Wahhabism" is a label widely and indiscriminately used in Central Asia for Islamic radicals and Muslims who refuse to attend official mosques and even for Jehovah's Witnesses by some Uzbek officials.
In the trial of these eight Muslims, it is notable that in essence the court recognised that their only guilt was that they studied Islam together and adhered to the Hanbali school of Islam. "These men were accused of studying Islam from the position of Wahhabism," Ardzinov told Forum 18. "They criticised the form of Islam traditional in Uzbekistan. They were also accused of establishing a mutual-aid fund." Ardzinov - who was present in court - said those arrested had made no attempt to change the country's religious life by spreading their views to other Muslims. The meetings of the eight were a kind of "club" of like-minded people, who discussed religion and read the Koran. Unlike traditional Uzbek Muslims, these Muslims regarded the veneration of mazars (tombs) and extravagant weddings and funerals as deviations from Islam.
Among other examples of the authorities targeting of devout Muslims are the cases of Mannobjon Rahmatullaev, who was kidnapped from Russia and sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment and the continuing trial of 23 Muslim businessmen in Andijan [Andijon], accused of belonging to an Islamic charitable organisation.
Contacted by phone by Forum 18 on 22 February, the chairman of the Uzbek government committee for religious affairs Shoazim Minovarov stated that he knew nothing of trials of devout Muslims in Uzbekistan. When Forum 18 pointed out that it was his job to know, Minovarov replied: "You can think what you like. I don't want to answer this question. As they say in English - no comment!"
As well as devout members of the majority faith, Islam, being targeted by the authorities, members of the minority faiths of Protestant Christianity and Jehovah's Witnesses have also been targeted. And in a bizarre move, Uzbekistan is the only former Soviet country to ban the entry of the relics of saints and martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"We unambiguously support the position of the United States to resolve the Iraqi problem... If this genie is let out of the bottle, it won't be possible to put it back. It's necessary to take the most coordinated measures to make sure that the genie isn't out of the bottle....The global community has no right to play with this situation for the sake of its future. I believe the U.S. has grounds for the stance it has assumed, and therefore radical measures need to be taken."
-- President Islam Karimov, March 7, 2003
Office of the Press Secretary
December 14, 2004
Memorandum for the Secretary of State
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
SUBJECT: Waiver of Restrictions on Assistance to the Republic of Uzbekistan under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of
1993 and Title V of the FREEDOM Support Act
Consistent with the authority vested in me by section 1306 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-314), I hereby certify that waiving the restrictions contained in subsection (d) of section 1203 of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 1993 (22 U.S.C. 5952), as amended, and the requirements contained in section 502 of the FREEDOM Support Act (22 U.S.C. 5852) during Fiscal Year 2005 with respect to the Republic of Uzbekistan is important to the national security interests of the United States.
Q I have a question on something else. On Uzbekistan, do you have any reaction to what is going on over there, on the crisis? And have there been any high-level contacts since this erupted?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I know that the Department of State has been in touch with our embassy there, and so they probably will be talking more about this at their briefing, as well. We have had concerns about human rights in Uzbekistan, but we are concerned about the outbreak of violence, particularly by some members of a terrorist organization that were freed from prison. And we urge both the government and the demonstrators to exercise restraint at this time. The people of Uzbekistan want to see a more representative and democratic government, but that should come through peaceful means, not through violence. And that's what our message is.
Fraud, nepotism and torture mark Karimov's reign
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Saturday May 14, 2005
President Islam Karimov was born in the historic town of Samarkand in 1938, and rose to become first secretary of the Communist party in Uzbekistan and then the country's first president in 1990, writes Nick Paton Walsh. A series of fraudulent elections and referendums have extended his rule.
The country's two key products, cotton and gold, are produced under strict state control, with child labour being used to farm the former. The impoverished sprawl of its capital city, Tashkent, is adorned with huge glass-fronted buildings. Mr Karimov's family and inner circle, it is claimed, dominate most industries.
The Uzbek security services' record has come under renewed scrutiny after Washington declared Tashkent its ally in its "war on terror", after Mr Karimov let the US open a much-needed airbase in Khanabad to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Human rights groups have documented the regime's torture of dissidents, often those associated with Islamic groups and based in the country's restless eastern Ferghana Valley. [..]
The former UK ambassador to Tashkent, Craig Murray, said: "People come to me very often after being tortured. Normally this includes homosexual and heterosexual rape of close relatives in front of the victim; rape with objects such as broken bottles; and use of boiling liquids including complete immersion of the body."
The reclusive Mr Karimov told Uzbek radio, according to BBC Monitoring, that such dissidents "must be shot in the forehead! If necessary, I'll shoot them myself."