UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UZBEKISTAN: New closed trials for Andijan accused
ANKARA, 1 Dec 2005 (IRIN) - New trials connected with the May uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan have started in Uzbekistan, with 58 people charged with terrorism, religious extremism and other serious crimes in four separate closed court hearings, the country’s Supreme Court said on Thursday.
The trials are closed due to concerns over security in the courts in the capital, Tashkent, and in central Sirdarya province, the Supreme Court said in a statement.
The statement, which came one day after strong criticism by the international rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW), said “defendants are charged with premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances, committing acts of terror and other grave offences”.
New York-based HRW on Wednesday called upon Tashkent to allow international monitors into the courtrooms where defendants were facing charges over May's uprising.
Rights groups say that upwards of 1,000, mainly unarmed civilians, may have been killed when government forces violently suppressed mass protests in the city. Tashkent put the death toll at 187, vehemently denying all requests for an independent international inquiry requested by international organisations and major donor countries.
HRW said Uzbek officials had rebuffed all attempts to monitor the latest trials or to obtain official confirmation of the charges.
“The Uzbek government’s attempt to cover up the truth about Andijan now extends into the courtroom itself,” said Holly Cartner, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director. “The Uzbek government should allow immediate access to the trials for defendants’ relatives, trial monitors and local human rights activists.”
On 14 November, the Supreme Court sentenced the first 15 men for the Andijan violence to prison terms ranging from 14 to 20 years. Rights activists, both international and local, told IRIN earlier that the trial was a show, claiming that it was neither fair nor open.
The Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan (IGIHRAU), a local rights watchdog, said on Wednesday that even defence lawyers were escorted by policemen from the country’s special anti-terror body and each of them had been warned against unauthorised disclosure of information about the hearings.
The Uzbek authorities initially said that the number of people to face trials over the Andijan unrest was about 100, but that figure has increased as new arrests have continued and more trials are expected, observers say.
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