the Disillusioned kid: Trials and Tribulations
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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Trials and Tribulations

The trial of 15 men accused by the Uzbek government of orchestrating an armed uprising in the eastern town of Andijan began on Tuesday. The defendants stand accused of plotting an Islamic coup and are face charges of terrorism, possession of ilegal weapons, murder, hostage taking and freeing prisoners. Among the defendants are three citizens of Kyrgyzstan which neighbours Uzbekistan and is alleged by the Uzbek government to have provided at least implicit support to those involved in the "plot", a charge the Kyrgyz government reject vociferously. If found guilty the defendants face the death penalty or long prison sentences.

The trial follows violence in Andijan resulting from attempt to release a number of business men being held by authorities in the town. In response the government sent in the army. The Karimov regime claims that these forces killed a number of "terrorists", but outside of Uzbekistan this story is not widely taken seriously (although Dr Shirin Akiner has controversially drawn many of the same conclusions), more credence being given to the accounts of refugees from Andijan and other eyewitnesses such as reporter Galima Bukharbaeva (subsequently denounced by the regime and forced to leave the country) who allege that the army used massive force and massacred civillians, even when any chance of resistance had been crushed.

Critics of the Karimov regime suggest that the trial is following an established pattern and are unsurprised by the fact that all 15 defendants have pleaded guilty, noting that in terrorism trials defendants are always found guilty. Some have alleged that confessions have been coerced through torture, a claim that the defendants themselves deny for all that shows. Quite why this need last a month, as it apparently will, is unclear. I'd always assumed show trials need only be perfunctory affairs.

This trial is likely to be the first of a series. Investigators told a Parliamentary commission that they were "investigating" another 106 people alleged to have been involved in events in Andijan. The outcome in each and every trial is a foregone conclusion, which is why human rights organisations greeted the commencement of this first trial by calling for an international investigation into what happened at Andijan. Which is not, I would suggest, a bad idea.

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