Statement of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan

      From 12 May 2007 the authorities of the Dzhizak region and Pakhtakor district began unprecedented moral-psychological and forceful pressure on the Pakhtakor district division of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) and its representative Saida Kurbanova.

From the moment of its foundation this organisation fell into the disfavour of the regional and district authorities. The Pakhtakor division of HRSU for the most part defended the rights of farmers, as the population of the given region are almost all involved in the agricultural industry, if the large number of unemployed is not taken into account.

On 12 May in the regional paper тАЬDzhizakskaya PravdaтАЭ [no. 40 (4697)], organ of the Dzhizaks regional assembly of peopleтАЩs deputies and the тАШxokimiyatтАЩ of the region, a defamatory article was published under the tendentious title тАЬWe DonтАЩt Need Overseas Sops (cry of the soul)тАЭ, under which stood four farmersтАЩ surnames: Anorboi Eshmatov, Ylugbek Imomov, Kholbuvi Rustamava and Omandullyi Ravshanov.

On 16th May in the following edition [no. 40 (4698)] of the same paper an тАЬOpen LetterтАЭ was published, addressed to the independent experts of the UN and named тАЬIndignation of Aksakals has no limitтАЭ and was signed by residents of the Pakhtakor district Abbos Salaev, Buvniso Begalieva, Tovboy Soleiev and Umrzok Khudoiberdiev, calling themselves тАЬVeterans of the Great Patriotic WarтАЭ and тАЬAksakalsтАЭ. [Aksakal (uzb. literally тАЬwhite beardтАЭ) тАУ someone wise, respected and honoured by the people, elder].

We know practically nothing about the authors of the first documents, aside from the fact that one of these authors, Kholbuvi Rustamova, former director of a state farm of Soviet times, was the lover of the Uzbek Communist leader Sharaf Rashidov, who was a тАЬservicesтАЭ figure, who was always used by the authorities when they wanted to discredit a person who displeased them.

On 17th May on the news-information site тАЬGorizontтАЭ a article came out by Nikolai Barashkin, the staff correspondent for the Dzhizak region of the republicтАЩs newpaper тАЬPravda VostokaтАЭ, under the title тАЬDonтАЩt lead me over the logsтАЭ dedicated to the same theme тАУ the blackening of human rights activists from HRSU and other organisations. As the main target of his article N. Barashkin chose S. Kurbanova.

Soon it became known that the second article, тАЬsignedтАЭ тАЬby war veteransтАЭ was a complete lie, as the age of the eldest of these (U. Khudoiberdiev) was no more than 55 years, the youngest (T. Soliev) тАУ hardly more than 40, which means they are neither тАЬwar veteransтАЭ nor тАЬaksakalsтАЭ. When the тАЬauthorsтАЭ were shown the article they expressed extreme surprise and claim that they neither wrote nor signed the article.

Thus, the provocative act of the authorities came to light very quickly, the aim of which was to discredit rights activists in the eyes of the general public and frighten not just these human rights defenders but also the people who turn to them for help. We are sure that both the article of the farmers тАЬWe DonтАЩt Need Overseas Sops (cry of the soul)тАЭ and the article of N. Barashkin тАЬDonтАЩt lead me over the logsтАЭ were ordered by the authorities.

We think that, really, the authorities are preparing to begin a criminal prosecution against rights activists and first of all against Saida Kurbanova. The fact of the matter is that in their letter the тАЬveteransтАЭ openly call for opening a criminal case in relation to the rights activists. In other words, the authorities are equating the human rights defence activities of people to crimes, and the media report on the basis of Point 3 Article 322 of the Criminal-Processing Codex of the Republic of Uzbekistan could become the reason for the opening of a criminal case.

On 27th May on the initiative of the head of the district administration (khokim), Ergash Soliev, a communal meeting was held in the district, which in its spirit differed in no way from the тАЬpeopleтАЩs trialsтАЭ of Soviet times. At this meeting the Khokim declared Saida Kurbonova a тАЬtraitor of the motherlandтАЭ. Twelve neighbours of the rights activist wrote a letter in which they fully supported her and consider slanderous everything that was contained in the articles published in the newspapers. They were not invited to the above-mentioned meeting. On 27th May the duty police inspector came to her at home and told her to come quickly to the regional division of internal affairs, without showing any summons paper. But Saida Kurbonova refused to go to the police station without a summons paper.

At the current time nine members of HRSU are in prison. After the famous Andijan events (May 2005) there were criminal proceedings opened against thirteen members of the organisation; eight rights activists were forced to leave their homeland.

The Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan resolutely protests against the arbitrary rule of the authorities of the Dzhizak region and Pakhtakark district and demands the restoration of justice for the rights activists in the district.

We call on international human rights organisations to join with our protest and show moral support to Saida Kurbonova and her comrades-in-arms in the defence of human rights.

Talib Yakubov

Representative of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan

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