This chapter describes and documents the harassment, detention, prosecution, and imprisonment of independent Muslims from 1998 through the present.
The campaign’s original targets were individual religious leaders, imams, some of whom were imprisoned or disappeared as early as 1992. Since that time, prosecutors have brought charges against people for being “Wahhabi,” for membership in “extremist” or illegal organizations, and on trumped-up weapons and narcotics charges. Those convicted have been subject to long prison sentences. Authorities used incommunicado detention, beatings, and torture during pre-trial detention to obtain testimony to support these charges, as is detailed in “Torture and Mistreatment in Pre-trial Detention” below. Those detainees whose charges were dropped or who were paroled or released under amnesty face ongoing harassment.
The government’s campaign later expanded to target large numbers of actual associates or disciples of the independent imams, and even some persons merely perceived to be affiliated with them. In cases brought against such people, participation in religious discussion, ownership of a copying machine and cell phones, even playing soccer, have been cited as evidence of criminal activity or intent. As in cases involving the imams themselves, the dangerously elastic charge of “Wahhabism” appears frequently in the case reports, as do lengthy prison sentences.
Beginning in 1998, the Uzbek government began to target members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Unlike the imams, their followers, and others branded “Wahhabi,” they are identifiable members of an organized group that advocates a particular ideology: the establishment of a Caliphate. But like those accused of “Wahhabism,” the group’s members face charges of conspiring to overthrow the government, as well as criminal charges relating to membership in a banned organization. The government has shown little patience for distinguishing among religious principles, political beliefs, and actual subversion. Case materials show that merely distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir’s religious leaflets and engaging in discussion of Hizb ut-Tahrir religious ideas have been criminalized as acts hostile to the state, and prosecuted aggressively.
Chapter III reports these developments in two sections. “Imams, Their Followers, and ‘Wahhabis’” documents the government’s actions against the imams, their associates, and those alleged to be affiliated with them. Because of important differences in the target group itself and in the issues raised, the campaign against Hizb ut-Tahrir is treated separately in “Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
Uzbek authorities justify the campaign against independent Islam as necessary to fight terrorism. But years before the Uzbek government faced armed threats from the IMU, suffered bombings in the capital, or became a partner in the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, it took action to limit the nonviolent challenge to its authority posed by an organized and independent religious movement. It did so not to stave off threats of terrorism, but to prevent the emergence of politicized Islam.
As explained above, a well-known and elemental part of the Soviet project was eradication of religion as an organizing principle for society and social interaction. In Central Asia, this policy was modified and expressed in terms of state efforts to control and co-opt religious belief and expression. The government of independent Uzbekistan inherited the Soviet program of state control of religion, as well as suspicion of segments of society whose first allegiance was not to the state, or more specifically not to the ruling state elites. Coming out of the glasnost era, having witnessed the birth of political opposition parties in the country and seen the challenge they posed to their political monopoly, Uzbekistan’s elites reinvigorated Soviet methods to reestablish control over politics and religion. Once the political opposition was effectively neutralized or marginalized in 1992, the elites assessed any further threats to their hold on power. It was in this moment that state focus turned to religious Muslim leaders who displayed any form of independence from state authority. This independence was manifested in a variety of ways: through a refusal to praise the president and his policies during religious services; expression of a desire for a state governed by Islamic law; refusal to work for state law enforcement to spy on fellow religious leaders or members of the congregation, to root out disloyalty to the state or its doctrine; or, simply, exhibition of popularity and influence with a congregation. The state viewed these dynamic, renegade, or dissident imams as a threat, as a potential organizing force for religious-based opposition to the existing power elites. With the program and tools of religious repression already at their disposal, the former-Soviet authorities made use of the state’s monopoly on power and initiated their campaign to rid the country of religious expression that was independent of state control.
One of the first steps the government took was to persecute individual dissident spiritual leaders. One of them was Imam Abdulla Utaev, who disappeared in 1992. Then, in 1995, the state-appointed Imam Abduvali Mirzoev and his assistant vanished, many believe, at the hands of state agents. In 1997, Nematjon Parpiev, an assistant to Mirzoev, was disappeared.166 Other well-known religious leaders, including imams Barnoev, Iuldashev, and Abdurakhmonov, were imprisoned in the late 1990s and in 2000 on charges of anti-state activity. The campaign of religious persecution began with these individuals, then expanded to their followers, and more recently has focused on the organization Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The government’s campaign extended to members of the official clergy. Among the first clergymen targeted was Imam Obidkhon Nazarov, one of the most popular—and, at one time, officially most favored—of the state-appointed imams. He was fired in 1996 for speaking out about the disappearance of Imam Mirzoev, refusing to serve as an informant for the national security services, and allegedly for objecting to policies of the Muslim Board.167 In 1998 after two years of harassment, he either was disappeared or fled the country fearing arrest.168 Nazarov was placed on a police wanted list for having been a leader of a “criminal extremist organization.” Following his vanishing, even a loose association with Imam Nazarov became the basis for arrests, conspiracy charges, and long prison sentences. According to one witness of this early phase of the crackdown, silencing these state religious leaders weakened the moderate, alternative expression of Islam and may have contributed to the growth of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the only formalized expression of religious dissent that currently exists in Uzbekistan.169
Police arrested Imam Akhad Barnoev on March 15, 1999. Barnoev had served as imam-khatib (prayer leader and chief orator) of the well-known Otallohon, or Gumbas, mosque in Namangan from 1991 to 1995. Specifically, the state charged that Imam Barnoev allowed “Wahhabis” to attend his mosque, which was registered with the Muslim Board. Barnoev denied the charge in court, retorting that some of his congregation were given this label only because they raised their hands during prayers and said “amen” out loud following the reading of the fotikh sura (the fotikh sura is the first sura, or chapter, of the Koran, repeated several times in daily prayers).
Barnoev testified in court that his only fault was having been imam of a mosque that was later labeled “Wahhabi.” The state alleged, however, that those associated with the imam’s mosque created an organization composed of “reactionary religious extremists.”170 Also cited against the imam were police claims to have found “Wahhabi leaflets” and weapons in his home.171 The court, finding that during his spiritual leadership of the Otallohon mosque Barnoev had “significantly contributed to the spread of Wahhabism,” and “had been an instructor and leader of Wahhabis,” sentenced him to eighteen years in prison and confiscation of his property.172 Imam Barnoev was held in Tashkent prison for at least five months following his conviction.173 As of December 2002, the imam was incarcerated in Zangiota prison in Tashkent province.174
Kyrgyz citizen Imam Iuldash Tursunbaev, born in 1955, served as a state-appointed spiritual leader in Uzbekistan from 1989 to 1996. He also presided over the congregation of Otallohon mosque in Namangan, the mosque later led by Imam Barnoev and branded by the government as “Wahhabi.”175 He then worked at a medresseh in Tashkent and later as imam of a mosque in the Kattakurgan district of Samarkand, before returning to his native Kyrgyzstan, where he took over the leadership of a mosque in Bazar Kurgan, in Jalal-Abad province.176 On August 29, 1999,177 Uzbek law enforcement agents roughly seized him in Bazar Kurgan on the street outside a mosque and before some sixty to seventy witnesses.178 They then transported him across the border to Uzbekistan, where they held him incommunicado, first in Namangan and later in Tashkent, until his January 2000 trial.179
The indictment charged him with attempting or conspiring to commit terrorism, inciting ethnic, racial, or religious enmity, conspiracy to overthrow the government, attempt or conspiracy to commit subversive activity, organization of, or participation in, a criminal association, and illegal possession of weapons. It also charged Tursunbaev with being a “Wahhabi,” associated with disappeared Imam Mirzoev and aligned with militants who later became the leadership of the IMU. It did not accuse him of involvement in any specific violent act or specific plot to overthrow the government.180 As evidence of the imam’s criminality the prosecution charged that he was an active participant in a goup called Tavba (Repentance), a charge he did not deny. Tavba—established in Azerbaijan in 1991 with the aim of uniting Muslim factions and eliminating dissension among religious leaders—reportedly included future IMU leaders Tokhir Iuldash and Juma Namangani among its members. According to knowledgeable rights defenders in Uzbekistan, the organization’s aims did not resonate with many Central Asian Muslims and garnered negligible support in Uzbekistan.181 Nor was the group forbidden at the time of Tursunbaev’s association with it.182 While the Uzbek government labeled Tavba a “religious extremist group,” Tursunbaev in his testimony recalled that his interest in it was sparked in 1991 by its goal to bring harmony to the Muslim community, its apolitical nature, and its status as an officially registered organization in Azerbaijan.183
Testimony by prosecution witnesses did not strengthen the state’s case: Imam Barnoev, for example, stated that he did not know Tursunbaev and that his pre-trial written testimony incriminating the other imam had been dictated by police investigators.184 The charge of weapons possession was based on a single unsubstantiated allegation, taking up just one sentence of the ten-page verdict against him. This stated that during the summer of 1991 (before Uzbekistan’s independence from the Soviet Union), the imam had received a shipment of an unspecified number of pistols with silencers from an unspecified person and had transported them to Namangan, with the aim of arming his “criminal group,” and showed them to people at a meeting.185 This charge ostensibly rested on testimony provided to the court by men—some of whom were themselves in prison at the time of the trial—who claimed to have known the imam during the early 1990s. However, two witnesses testified that a man other than Imam Tursunbaev had brought guns to a meeting, while a third witness cited a completely different meeting where Tursunbaev supposedly showed off not pistols, but a single hunting rifle he had been given as a gift. The remaining witnesses for the prosecution did not address the weapons charge.186
The Tashkent Province Court judge denied Human Rights Watch access to Tursunbaev’s trial on the day the defendant himself testified, January 13, and to a subsequent hearing on January 27, 2000. In a highly unorthodox move, the afternoon session of the January 27 hearing was, in fact, held behind closed doors in Tashkent prison. On February 29, 2000, repeating the prosecution’s indictment almost verbatim, the judge ruled Imam Tursunbaev guilty as charged and sentenced him to twenty years in prison.187
Imam Tulkin Kori Ergashev, along with Imam Nazarov, was put on an official “wanted” list in 1998 for alleged anti-state activities.188 As imam-khattib of the Sahobilar mosque in Tashkent, Ergashev had reportedly continued using a loudspeaker to broadcast the mosque’s call to prayer, in contravention of a 1998 government decree prohibiting this.189 As a result, the Muslim Board dismissed him for disobedience.190 It has also been reported that the Sahobilar mosque was unregistered—efforts to register the mosque with authorities reportedly failed—and that it drew a significant number of young people to Friday prayers.191 The unofficial status of the mosque and its popularity may also have been motivation for state antagonism toward Ergashev.192 Ergashev’s whereabouts are unknown, and he is believed to be in hiding since he left home in early 1998. In his absence, police arrested his son and brother and detained his wife.193
Law enforcement agents arrested Imam Ergashev’s protégé soon after. Forty-one-year-old Imam Kobil Murodov had also been linked with Nazarov. After Ergashev’s dismissal, Murodov had taken over as imam of the Sahobilar mosque.194 The U.S. Department of State reported that in early October 1998, Murodov was arrested on charges of illegal possession of narcotics and teaching religion without permission.195 He died on October 30 in pre-trial detention at Tashkent prison.196 According to the U.S. government report, “Murodov’s body showed severe bruising, his teeth were knocked out, and his collarbone and several ribs were broken.”197 The official explanation for his death was either that he fell in his cell or was beaten by fellow inmates.198
Nazarov’s former deputy, Abduvahid Iuldashev, served as imam of the officially registered Ilonli Ota, or Borijar, mosque in Tashkent for one year.199 Iuldashev, born in 1968, is reputed to have been a popular and dynamic prayer leader. When Nazarov was removed from his post as imam of Tokhtaboi mosque in 1996 Iuldashev was detained and held for fifteen days on misdemeanor charges of “hooliganism.”200 In February 1999 the police arrested him after services at the Ilonli Ota mosque, and allegedly beat him and planted drugs on him.201 He was convicted on drug possession charges. An appeals court released him on parole in August 1999, but his release was conditional and authorities kept him under tight surveillance. Notably, the appeals court determined that Iuldashev was not a member of any illegal religious organization, even though he was not charged with this infraction.202 He was compelled to report every Saturday to the Sobir Rakhimov district police station to be filmed or photographed, to give fingerprints, and to sign a statement avowing that, “I, Abduvahid Iuldashev, am not a member of any religious sect and do not approve of these sects.”203 The content of these avowals is particularly revealing—police had ostensibly arrested Iuldashev for a narcotics violation, not on religion-related charges.
Police rearrested Iuldashev in July 2000 and held him incommunicado for more than five months at the Tashkent municipal police headquarters (MVD). They denied his lawyer access to him with the implausible explanation that he had elected to reject legal counsel.204 At trial, where he was charged along with twelve other men who had attended his mosque or were otherwise associated with him, Iuldashev testified that police had tortured him and other defendants to produce statements that he was the leader of an extremist religious group and had purchased weapons to prepare for the violent overthrow of the state.205 In April 2001 Judge Najimov of the Tashkent City Court found Iuldashev guilty of conspiracy to overthrow the state, leadership of a criminal group, leadership of a religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organization, possession and distribution of literature containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism, and illegal acquisition of foreign currency and sentenced him to nineteen years in prison.
The state’s case against Iuldashev was largely based on the allegation that lessons he gave on the Koran and other Islamic texts while serving as a state-appointed imam were actually lessons in “Wahhabism” and calls for holy war. Judge Najimov questioned co-defendant Ulugbek Vakhidov on this point. Vakhidov, who testified that he had asked Iuldashev to teach him more about Islam and was invited in 1998 to join a small class of three to four people, had the following exchange with the judge:
Another defendant, Jamshid Azimov, stated simply, “I didn’t think it was a crime to go to a house for classes.”207 He and Vakhidov were each sentenced to eight years in prison and confiscation of their property.
Abdurakhim Abdurakhmonov worked as a religious teacher in the government-run Kokoldosh medresseh in Tashkent from 1991 to 1995. His case includes a number of features typical of the arrest campaign—multiple arrests, torture, incommunicado detention, and conviction on highly suspect charges—and merits detailed description. Abdurakhmonov served as imam of the religious school from 1995 to 1996, when the Muslim Board dismissed him for stating his agreement with Imam Nazarov in the debate over the elder imam’s alleged disobedience.208 Abdurakhmonov reportedly had attended Nazarov’s sermons at Tokhtaboi mosque before the imam was removed and had gone occasionally to the well-known religious leader for advice.209
He was first detained on January 17, 1998, along with four other men, following a visit to Imam Nazarov’s home in Tashkent.210 All five men were released, but police burst into Abdurakhmonov’s house the next night, January 18, dragged him from bed, beat him, stuck a gun in his elderly father’s mouth, and arrested them both. Police held him in detention overnight and beat him severely in custody.211 According to his wife, when she saw him next day—police brought him along as they searched his home—he was pale and could barely speak or stand. He later told her that police had beaten him on the head until he lost consciousness, and that they resumed the beatings each time he woke.212 He was released with the payment of a fine (it is unclear whether or not he was formally charged under the administrative or criminal code). A person close to the case reported to Human Rights Watch that the imam was diagnosed with brain damage and had required an operation and long-term hospitalization for his head injuries following his release.213
Abdurakhmonov was again arrested in June 1998 on charges of falsifying his passport and narcotics possession.214 The judge stated in his verdict that Abdurakhmonov and a co-defendant had “partially confessed” that they had arranged to have their passports altered to facilitate doing business in Kyrgyzstan. The judge dismissed the charge of illegal possession of narcotics.215 Convicted of having a falsified passport, he was sentenced to two years in prison, but as this statute fell under the presidential amnesty of 1998, Abdurakhmonov was released from the courtroom on December 5, 1998.216 The doctor who examined Abdurakhmonov upon his release found that he had a concussion, a broken rib, and bruised kidneys, as well as nerve damage to his spine so severe that the then-thirty-year-old man could no longer sit or stand upright.217
Abdurakhmonov was later obliged to report for police questioning about the activities and possible whereabouts of Obidkhon Nazarov, but he refused to become an informant.218 At one point, police accused him of having taught members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.219 Police re-arrested him shortly thereafter, on or about April 27, 2000, and held him incommunicado for two months, the duration of the pre-trial investigation.220
During this period, investigator Khalkhon Juraev of the Procuracy General denied Abdurakhmonov’s wife any contact with him and refused to inform her of the reason for his arrest.221 She did not know his whereabouts but was too frightened of the authorities to pursue the question aggressively, which reflects the experience of other detainees’ relatives. She explained that she was “afraid to go to the MVD because they will lock me up in a room and threaten to do things to me if my husband doesn’t confess, then they will threaten my husband that they will rape me and then he’ll confess to everything. This is what I’ve been told.”222
The family reported that during the investigation—from April to July 2000—at least three attorneys refused to defend Abdurakhmonov. They explained to the family that security agents had followed them and had put them under intimidating surveillance when they had represented him in the past.223 But the defendant did not have state representation either. The state failed to appoint any lawyer to represent Abdurakhmonov during the investigation of his case and to attend police interrogations. A state-appointed lawyer for the defense appeared for the first time at trial, and then only for the first two hearings.224
In its indictment of Abdurakhmonov, the state charged him with “Wahhabism” and with being part of a criminal group along with Imam Nazarov. He was accused of having recruited young men for terrorist training camps abroad and plotting to explode the Charvok dam, north of Tashkent. The court sentenced him to seventeen years of imprisonment on charges of attempt or conspiracy to commit terrorism, conspiracy to overthrow the state, attempt or conspiracy to commit subversion, incitement of national (ethnic), racial, or religious enmity, organization of a criminal group, polygamy, and illegal possession of arms or ammunition.225
The most damning evidence against Abdurakhmonov at his second trial was a written statement confessing to all of the state’s charges. When given the opportunity to testify in court, however, Abdurakhmonov recanted this confession, stating it was coerced under torture, and conceded only that he had previously met with several so-called Wahhabis. He insisted that he had not been involved in any criminal act. According to an observer at the trial, “He said, ‘If you think it is a crime to talk with religious people, then I confess to that.’”226 But the verdict states that Abdurakhmonov—along with the disappeared imam Abduvali Mirzoev, the IMU leaders Tokhir Iuldash and Juma Namangani, and Bakhrom Abdullaev and others—had led a criminal group aiming to destabilize the government of Uzbekistan and establish an Islamic state by force.227 The judgment loosely links Abdurakhmonov to well-known militants and people labeled “religious extremists,” but relies on sweeping allegations. Furthermore it does not detail specific actions of his that violated the law, nor, therefore, any evidence connecting Adburakhmonov to a crime.
With regard to the recruitment charge, Judge Shukurov’s verdict makes allegations as to Abdurakhmonov’s allegiance and intentions, without providing evidence. For example, the verdict states that Abdurakhmonov “supported” a call to establish an organization called “Tizhoratchi” (tradesmen) and that this group’s members sent five hundred men to military training camps abroad. Abdurakhmonov himself is not named as a member of Tizhoratchi, is not alleged to have sent anyone to a military camp, and his “support” of the group is not elaborated upon in the verdict. It is unclear whether the court reviewed other evidence that was not presented at trial. The verdict also asserts that Abdurakhmonov conspired with others to explode a water reservoir in Charvok, but again points to no specific act to uphold this statement.228
The verdict states that police arrested Abdurakhmonov while he was in the process of “preparing together with members of a religious extremist movement to carry out pogroms and terrorism in Uzbekistan,” but devotes only one sentence of the verdict to this assertion and gives no indication that any evidence was available to prove it.229 The judge further claimed that witness testimony offered proof of Abdurakhmonov’s guilt, but examination of the testimony as recounted in the verdict reveals that seven of the eight witnesses stated only that Abdurakhmonov prayed and that he had been arrested previously in 1998. None of the seven witnesses’ testimony, which was summarized in the verdict, referred to Abdurakhmonov having committed a crime.230 The eighth witness claimed to know that Abdurakhmonov was part of a “Wahhabi movement” but did not define the term. He also testified that the imam and another man had asked him to make copies of a tape about jihad and that he had once overheard a conversation in Abdurakhmonov’s house about authorities’ arrest of Muslims and the need to change the system and to establish an Islamic state through jihad.231
The verdict focused heavily on Abdurakhmonov’s Islamic studies and influences, including studies with Imam Nazarov and attendance at that imam’s Friday prayer services.232 The ruling acknowledges that Imam Abdurakhmonov stated that he had no relationship to Hizb ut-Tahrir or any other “religious extremist organizations.” It further notes that Abdurakhmonov testified that he had not committed any crime against the government nor any crime related to extremism, fundamentalism, or separatism. He said he had had no thoughts of undertaking terrorism or aggression. And he admitted only to having studied Islam during the period in question.233 The verdict does not elaborate in any way on the origins of the charge of possession of illegal weapons or ammunition. It does not discuss the charge or provide support for it. The judge nonetheless ruled that Abdurakhmonov was guilty on this charge. Human Rights Watch attended the twenty-minute Tashkent City Court appeals hearing of Abdurakhmonov’s case.234 His state appointed lawyer failed to note the procedural violations in the first trial and presented a defense of her client seen often in earlier political cases, a defense that conceded the state’s charges and asked simply for leniency on the basis of his youth and for the sake of his children.235 After a two-minute break to deliberate, the three-judge panel ruled to uphold the lower court’s decision. At this writing, Imam Abdurakhmonov is in Zangiota prison.
Over the years, local rights defenders agree, not only well-known imams but also many of their followers or perceived followers have been detained or arrested during the government campaign against independent Islam. The government has particularly targeted people it perceived as followers of Imam Nazarov. Their estimates of numbers vary from several hundred to several thousand,236 but this discrepancy is not surprising, as some detainees are released uncharged and others held incommunicado, or on misdemeanor charges for varying periods. In addition, many detainees are picked up more than once, as part of a pattern of ongoing harassment and surveillance of independent Muslims. Those who are released are often reluctant to discuss their detention with human rights organizations; sometimes because they were forced to name friends or acquaintances as criminals, pay a bribe to police, or agree to inform on others after being released, and sometimes simply out of fear of re-arrest. Others were detained multiple times before being formally arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms.
Police action against people associated with Imam Nazarov began as early as 1996, just after the Muslim Board dismissed Nazarov from his position as imam.237 Later, police arrested not only those with a direct relationship with Nazarov, but also those with only a loose affiliation to the imam, including people who at one time attended his mosque, listened to his sermons, or possessed tapes of those sermons. Local human rights activist Vasila Inoiatova, who has attended dozens of trials of men brought up on religion-related charges, spoke of the on-going persecution of those “connected” with Nazarov, “...[A]ll these people who listened to his sermons or kept tapes [of Nazarov] are being arrested because of it.”238 As noted above, Imam Nazarov’s wife testified to the same phenomenon. “About 5,000 people went to his mosque,” she said of her husband, “but there are also many [who’ve been] arrested as his followers, but who never really went to his mosque, … who didn’t know him at all. Just because they had his tapes, they were arrested.”239 Another person close to the Nazarov case told Human Rights Watch that police targeted not only his students and congregants, but also those who “invited him to their homes at one time or were in the same room [as he] one day or drove him home—just people who showed him respect. Law enforcement agents followed [him] and video taped him and found those people—even people who only met him once.”240 “People who listened to his tapes were also arrested,” the source reported, recalling that one man had been arrested for listening to a tape of the imam reading from the Koran.241
The cases of two men, arrested together in 1998, typify what Human Rights Watch has learned about prosecutions of those accused of following independent imams in their alleged anti-state activity.
Abdurashid Isakhojaev was a worker in an industrial plant who frequented many mosques, including that of Imam Obidkhon Nazarov, with whom he formed a loose friendship and from whom he obtained basic religious instruction. Isakhojaev attended the Friday services at Nazarov’s Tokhtaboi mosque. He also met the imam at celebrations at the Nazarov home; he attended a wedding there and also the birthday of a child. When he suffered a work-related spinal injury in 1991—an injury that made him an invalid—Imam Nazarov visited him in the hospital. Isakhojaev and some of his schoolmates invited Imam Nazarov to participate in a “gap,” a men’s discussion group. At the “gap” Nazarov taught the young men basic Islamic rituals, such as how to pray and how to prepare bodies for a Muslim funeral. He also called on them to live clean lives, to be honest, and not to drink alcohol.242 According to Isakhojaev’s family, these interactions formed the extent of the young man’s relationship with the famous imam.
After Nazarov vanished in March 1998, local police briefly detained and interrogated Isakhojaev, along with estimated hundreds of other “followers” of Nazarov. At the precinct house, officers beat the young man while barraging him with questions about his religion and Imam Nazarov. He pleaded with the officers not to beat him on his injured back, but while questioning him about Nazarov, they focused their physical abuse on the area of his injury. The police asked him, “Where is Obid Kori?”243 and “Why do you wear a beard?”244 They released him after instructing him to find a cassette of Nazarov’s sermons that they were seeking, bring it to them, and shave his beard.245 Isakhojaev’s mother (born 1937) told Human Rights Watch, “I told him he was ill and would not survive torture, and I pleaded with my son to shave.”246 But Isakhojaev did not shave his beard.
On June 21, 1998, after his place of work closed unexpectedly, Isakhojaev’s friend Odil Isaev drove him to the Chilanzar mayor’s office, where he intended to make inquiries about it. As he approached the office, two men roughly detained both Isakhojaev and his friend. They pulled Isaev out of the car, beat him, and planted narcotics in his car before moving both detainees to MVD police headquarters in Tashkent.247 That evening eight or nine officers, saying they were MVD and entering without a warrant, searched Isakhojaev’s family’s house. They focused on one room they evidently believed to be his.248 Police concluded their search with the triumphant assertion: “We’ve got all we needed”—holding up a grenade.249 When Isakhojaev’s father-in-law accused them of planting the weapon, the officers forcibly removed him from the premises. Then the police took religious literature from the house, including copies of hadith. Later they compelled Isakhojaev’s wife to sign their report verifying the search, reportedly telling her: “Your husband is in our hands. If you want to give him food and a jacket, you’d better sign.”250 The religious materials were later deemed permissible and returned to the family.251
Police informed Isakhojaev’s family that the young man had refused legal representation, but then assigned a state lawyer to him. That lawyer told the family that Isakhojaev had confessed to all of the charges against him but did not specify those charges.252 On February 14, 1999, seeing his mother for the first time since his arrest, Isakhojaev told her that police had held him in the basement of the MVD for twenty-four days and that officers had tortured him there.253 He reportedly said that during interrogation, police beat him badly and tried to force him to give testimony against Imam Nazarov. Police questioning had focused exclusively on Nazarov, with no questions at all about the narcotics they claimed to have found in Isakhojaev’s possession.254 In response, Isakhojaev wrote a statement about Nazarov’s kindness to him after his accident and participation in the men’s discussion group. The investigator allegedly tore up Isakhojaev’s statement, saying, “We don’t need your fairy tales.”255 Eventually, police succeeded in extracting a statement from Isakhojaev that incriminated him for helping Imam Nazarov spread ideas of “Wahhabism.”256
Isakhojaev’s trial at the Chilanzar District Court began on October 30, 1998. The judge, K.H. Toshmatov, allegedly recommended that the family hire his court secretary as the lawyer for the defense and said that this would help the young man’s chances. The family hired the judge’s secretary and paid her for this service, but said they felt afterwards that she had not helped at all.257
At trial, according to the defendant’s mother, Isakhojaev was bent over and barely able to sit up. The only witnesses called were two men who had been stopped on the street by police after Isakhojaev was detained and who signed a document saying that police had shown them the drugs they claimed to have found on the young man.258 There were discrepancies in the state’s assertions about the “discovery” of the drugs on Isakhojaev, but this did not affect the trial.259 What the trial, like the investigation, focused on was Imam Nazarov and the defendant’s relationship to him. When the judge questioned Isakhojaev about Imam Nazarov, the young defendant recalled the imam’s visit with him in the hospital and the development of his own spiritual faith, which sprang from having survived his infirmity and being able to have children.260
The judge ruled that Isakhojaev was an active participant in a forbidden religious movement.261 Judge Toshmatov further found that from February 1992 to July 1998, Isakhojaev “...actively participated in the activities of the religious trend ‘Wahhabism,’ led by Obid Kori Nazarov, [who] illegally operated in the territory of the Republic under the mask of religious belief, for the purposes of spreading the ideas of this religious trend among the population, gathered people in his neighborhood and mosques and called them to join the ‘Wahhabi’ movement...”262 The judge’s verdict goes on to point to Nazarov’s participation in the men’s discussion group or “gap” as further evidence of Isakhojaev’s active involvement in calling people to “Wahhabism.” In the court’s opinion, the imam’s participation in the group was directed to discussing establishment of an Islamic state based on Islamic law.263
Judge Toshmatov sentenced Isakhojaev to eight years in a general-regime prison for illegal possession of narcotics, possession of weapons or ammunition, and organization of, or participation in, a banned social association or religious organization.264
Initially unable to learn where he was incarcerated, Isakhojaev’s family finally succeeded in locating him, in Jaslyk prison, the country’s harshest facility, where his poor condition and bruised body indicated that he had been beaten by guards.265 All of the family’s attempts to have him transferred to the central prison infirmary in Tashkent failed, as authorities either handed off the requests to other bureaucrats or responded with hostility.266 Meanwhile, after the trial authorities intimidated and harassed Isakhojaev’s family—detaining a younger brother, Muzafar, and harshly interrogating him because of his older brother’s perceived religious affiliation and his own religious practices.267
Odil Isaev, born in 1968, was arrested along with his friend, Abdurashid Isakhojaev, and accused of having been part of a “Wahhabi trend” led by Imam Nazarov.268 Isaev wore a beard and participated in the same men’s discussion group as Isakhojaev and Imam Nazarov.
On June 21, 1998, after driving his friend and co-worker, Isakhojaev, to the Chilanzar mayor’s office, he was detained by plainclothes agents who attempted to plant drugs on him. When he managed to get the narcotics, wrapped in a twenty-five-som note, out of his pocket, police reportedly laughed at his attempt to avoid having the contraband planted on him. “What, are you so rich that you can throw away money?” they taunted. Then they reportedly planted an even larger amount of marijuana in Isaev’s car and placed him under arrest.269
Odil Isaev was tried before Judge Toshmatov in the Chilanzar District Court just one day before Isakhojaev’s trial. He was sentenced to nine years in a strict-regime prison on charges of illegal possession of narcotics.270 In the decision against Isakhojaev, Judge Toshmatov noted that Odil Isaev was a member of the men’s discussion group that had included Imam Nazarov and that he and Isakhojaev were responsible for first inviting the imam to participate.271 Isaev was sent to Jaslyk prison.
In June 2002 the Fergana Province Court convicted fourteen men for having been “active members of an organized criminal religious extremist group that follows Wahhabism.”272 The verdict was based on confessions that, according to the defendants’ testimony, had been coerced under torture.273 The defendants recanted their confessions in court, but the judge ignored the torture claims and sentenced the men to terms ranging from nine to seventeen years of imprisonment.
The prosecution charged that the defendants were “religious exremists” who recruited militants for the IMU and made plans to commit acts of terrorism on various factories in the Fergana Valley. The evidence brought forth to support these charges included a grenade, several bullets, and small quantities of narcotics. The defendants acknowledged only that they helped others to leave Uzbekistan to escape religious repression.274
On September 21, 2001, the Tashkent City Court handed down a verdict convicting and sentencing eight people for being members of a “Wahhabi organization” led by Imam Nazarov and another imam, Rukhiddin Fakhruddinov.275 One of the defendants was Fakhruddinov’s wife, Rakhima Akhmedalieva, whom the judge sentenced to seven years in prison.276 The verdict presented as compelling evidence against defendant Bakhtior Karimov police data from Andijan indicating the young man had attended Imam Mirzoev’s sermons prior to 1995.277 Another defendant testified that he had been a student of Imam Mirzoev in Andijan in the early 1990s, but denied the government’s charge that the imam had taught him and other students from “Wahhabi” books, saying Mirzoev only instructed them in prayer and the Koran.278
Twelve men were arrested in 2000 and tried along with Imam Iuldashev. The state charged that during religion classes with Imam Iuldashev, the men had received not Koranic instruction, but lessons on “Wahhabism” and jihad. They were indicted on charges that included participation in a criminal group, distribution of extremist religious literature, and membership in a religious extremist organization. As to specific acts cited as evidence of their guilt, these related almost exclusively to expression and ideas. First, Iuldashev and his co-defendants were charged with distributing “Wahhabi” literature under orders from Imam Nazarov. No such literature is known to exist, and none was presented in court. The state also alleged that the men recorded and distributed broadcasts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and BBC, which included criticism of government policies.279 Some of the defendants allegedly possessed audio and video cassettes of speeches made years earlier by imams Nazarov and Mirzoev. As the indictment noted, Islamic scholars from the official Kokoldosh mosque had reviewed the tapes for the Cabinet of Ministers and found that they contained “ideas of extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism.”280 One co-defendant, Dilmurod Sagdullaev, was supposedly caught in possession of “leaflets” titled, “Hurry to her, Muslims, the month of charity has arrived” and “Textbook for charitable people.”281 The Cabinet of Ministers ruled that these materials advocated the establishment of an Islamic state through jihad.282
The men also allegedly owned a xerox machine, cell phones, a tape recorder, pagers, and a computer. These were not produced in court, but were mentioned in the indictment as evidence of criminal intent.283 The state further alleged that the men met twice in 1997 at public sports centers in Tashkent for exercise classes in preparation for “combat training for jihad.”284 The prosecution charged that the men collected money for a so-called baitulmol al-mal fund and were in possession of U.S. dollars.285
Dilmurod Sagdullaev denied all of the charges against him, including possession of “leaflets,” and acknowledged only that he took lessons in Islam.286 He was sentenced to ten years in prison.287 Defendant Khusan Maksudov “confessed” to having worked at Tokhtaboi mosque and having cooked for others during a trip to the mountains for “physical preparations” and lessons on religion led by Imam Nazarov. He also testified that he possessed tapes of Nazarov’s speeches and religious literature. He denied that he was a “Wahhabi.”288 Forty-nine-year-old Maksudov recounted that police tortured him in pre-trial detention and threatened to rape his wife.289 The court convicted Maksudov and fellow defendants Ulugbek Vakhidov, Abdukarim Mirzakhmedov, Jamshidbek Azimov, and Shukrullo Turaev and sentenced each to eight years in prison for organization of, or participation in, a religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organization and attempt to overthrow the constitutional order.290 Imam Iuldashev’s assistant in 1998 and 1999, Shukhrat Tajibaev, denied the state’s allegations that he established a religious extremist organization and plotted the overthrow of the state. He was treated the most harshly and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison.291 Five of the thirteen defendants—Botir Amanov, Nizomiddin Alavutdinov, Rashid Makhmudov, Zhavlon Tokhtakhanov, and Ravshan Irmatov—were found guilty of failing to report a crime and given two-year suspended sentences, and fined 20 percent of their salary for two years.
The trial of seventeen men from Tashkent who studied Islam at home starkly typifies the government’s campaign against religious activity outside state controls. The state charged that their activities were part of a “Wahhabi trend” and that their “Wahhabi” group operated under the leadership of Imam Nazarov. In fact, at least two of the defendants had never met Nazarov. The group’s activities, according to the indictment, included study of the Koran and discussions on the need to establish an Islamic state and live by the rules of Islamic law.292 According to the state prosecutor, “They pursued ideas of extremism, Wahhabism, and terrorism, and invited others to join...” He charged that the men obtained, copied, and distributed “religious extremist books” and propagated “Wahhabism.”293 The state alleged that money the men claimed to have collected for shared meals and to help poor neighbors was meant to buy weapons—though none was charged with weapons possession. Further, the state characterized the men’s participation in a semi-regular soccer game at a stadium in the city center as part of their “preparation to build an Islamic state.”294
The state indicted the men for conspiracy to seize power or overthrow the constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan; organization of, or participation in, an illegal religious organization; establishment or leadership of, or participation in, a religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist, or other banned organization; and distribution of “materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism” by a group and through abuse of office. Five of the seventeen defendants were charged with organizing a criminal association. The main defendant, Gafurjon Toirov, was also charged with illegal sale or acquisition of currency.
Some of the most appalling incidents in the case against the seventeen men took place long before they were brought to court. Police compelled at least six of the seventeen men to make public statements of contrition before congregations at state mosques, where government-sponsored Islamic leaders denounced them and warned others not to follow their example. The men were promised freedom in exchange for this public humiliation and vow of penitence, but police arrested them again soon after. Conditions of pre-trial detention were brutal for the seventeen men. Police allegedly kept them incommunicado for months, denied them access to legal counsel, and tortured them to force them to sign confessions. At trial, the men and their lawyers recounted the torture in detail, but Judge Sharipov ruled their testimony not credible and concluded, “No one tortured them.”295
The defendants296 denied that they were “Wahhabis” or involved in any kind of anti-state activity and claimed that their only “crime” had been to study Islam in private. They further claimed that the state failed to show that they had committed any act beyond this. The lawyer for Gairat Sabirov noted in his closing arguments, “During the trial...just one thing was proven, that he was studying religion.”297
Defendant Anvar Mirakhmedov said, “I lived in this country, was educated here. I never had anything against my country. I just wanted to learn the Koran, hadith, and be a real, pious Muslim. I just wanted to increase my knowledge.” Explaining his choice to participate in private religious instruction, defendant Otabek Makhmudov said, “Everybody asks us ‘Why do you learn religion at home, not at a mosque or university?’ If I go to the university, who will feed my family?” In an apparent attempt to bridge the gap between his legitimate practice of religion and the state’s demand that he ask for forgiveness, he added, “If reading the Koran is against the law, we admit that we made a mistake.”298 “I just want you to distinguish between real Muslims and militants,” defendant Faizullo Saipov told the judge.
Defendants Mansur Juraev, a twenty-two-year-old student at the Islamic university, and Gafurjon Toirov, had taught the others about Islam using the Koran. The state alleged that they had also taught the others that it was necessary to create an Islamic state by violent means and that they were leaders of a secret, illegal “Wahhabi” group intent on the violent overthrow of the government. In his testimony, Juraev said, “I proudly admit to the charges, I really taught these young men the Koran.” Regarding the men’s supposed participation in secret gatherings, Juraev noted, “The procurator asked us why we met secretly. I can’t distinguish between open and secret [here]. If we get together, should we hang a poster outside? We had dinner, we talked about prayer, but we didn’t hide from anybody.” Toirov echoed his co-defendants, explaining how he came to instruct the others in Islam, “I heard that there was an Islamic institute called Al Bukhari. I was preparing to join the Islamic university, and I don’t think I did anything wrong. Then I started teaching other people. I didn’t call anyone to go against our country.”
The defendants further rejected the state’s claim that the religious books found in their possession were “forbidden” or anti-constitutional. “Calling people to overthrow the country wasn’t our business. We did have religious books, though. If you go to any market, you can buy these books...they were not books against the constitution,” defendant Juraev told the court. As to charges that the group’s computer was purchased to produce anti-constitutional literature, Otabek Makhmudov’s lawyer noted, “Out of forty-eight diskettes, eleven had religious ideas, but nothing against the government or constitution... They’re being accused of having anti-government diskettes.”
Defendants acknowledged that they collected money for the needy, including at least one family of an accused “Wahhabi,” but denied that this amounted to wrongdoing. Outside the courthouse, a witness for the prosecution told Human Rights Watch that her brother had been convicted to five years in prison on fabricated charges of illegal possession of narcotics and a grenade. She said that a friend—one of the defendants—had given her family money, to help out, and that she had been summoned by police to serve as a witness in this case, to say that the defendants gave her family money.299 The state saw a conspiracy in the way the men had played soccer. They had taken part in “physical exercises in a Tashkent stadium,” according to the prosecutor, “in preparation for building an Islamic state...”300 The lawyer for Dilshod Unusov argued, “If they played soccer or exercised, does it mean they wanted to use it against someone? The President encourages sports, and now we’re accusing them of playing soccer!”301
On August 21, 2000, Judge Sharipov ruled that the men had been members of a “Wahhabi” group involved in spreading “Wahhabi literature” and engaged in “physical exercises and military training in Pakhtakor stadium” with the aim of establishing an Islamic state.302
Some of the sentences passed down by the court shocked even the most experienced observers. Long-time rights defender Mikhail Ardzinov commented, “I thought they would get five or six years; this was frightening.”303 Judge Sharipov sentenced Gafurjon Toirov and Shukhrat Umarov to nineteen years in prison and Mansur Juraev to an eighteen-year term. Maksudbekov and Sobirov were sentenced to fifteen and fourteen years, respectively, while Mirakhmedov, Boimetov, Astankulov, Rakhmatullaev, Ibrahim Obidov, Iunusov, and Rakhimov received sentences ranging from ten to thirteen years. The court imposed slightly lighter sentences, nine years in prison or less, on defendants Bobokhonov, Islamov, Saipov, Kosymov, and Tokhir Obidov. The latter, Obidov, was found guilty only of participation in a banned religious organization and was sentenced to three years and six months incarceration, reduced pursuant to a December 1998 presidential amnesty to one year and three months.304
In a related case, Tashkent City Court Judge Yusupov convicted fifteen men in November 2000 for taking classes on Islam.305 The fifteen men306 were accused of having studied the Koran and hadith in private classes or gatherings with a man named Rakhmatullo. As in the case against the seventeen accused Wahhabis, the state charged that these fifteen men took classes about the Koran and learned basic Arabic and that, as classes progressed, Rakhmatullo and other private instructors discussed holy war with them.307 Also reminiscent of the earlier case, the state charged that the men played sports in a local stadium as part of their preparation for establishing an Islamic state and were engaged in military training during a two-day trip to a children’s recreation camp.308 The defense argued that all the men did at the children’s camp was play soccer and go swimming.309
The state indictment of the fifteen men labeled them “Wahhabis” and “members of a Wahhabi trend.”310 It alleged that they were operating under the leadership of Imam Nazarov, but failed to flesh out the supposed connection with Nazarov.311 For their part, the defendants denied that they had even met the famous imam.312
Defendant Kakhramon Saidkhodjaev acknowledged that he had participated in religious study with one Rakhmatullo since 1996, but said that the supposed anti-state content of the classes was fabricated by police, who had forced him to sign a statement saying that Rakhmatullo had taught him about jihad.313 Defendant Mamurjon Musaev testified, “We were never involved in terrorism. We were just following God’s Koran and hadith and following Muhammad’s sunna [example].”314 Other defendants claimed that police had arrested them for praying and for their strong belief in God. Defendant Makhmud Abdullaev said, “When I was taken to the basement of the MVD, they asked me if I prayed. When I said yes, they asked why. They asked why I didn’t drink and go out with girls. It was then that I found out that I could be arrested for praying.”315 Meanwhile, defendant Kamol Shokasimov declared simply, “We’re here for praying, for believing in God. All the rest is false.”316
The court sentenced the fifteen men to prison terms ranging from six to nineteen years. They were all found guilty of attempted overthrow of the state; organization of, or participation in, a banned religious group; and organization of, or participation in, a religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organization. Defendant Shukhrat Balikov, who was sentenced to nineteen years, was also convicted of illegal possession of weapons or ammunition (on the basis of a signed confession to the state’s claim that he had detonators in a tape recorder) as well as the import of contraband, organization of, or participation in, a criminal association, and distribution of literature that contains fundamentalist, separatist, or extremist ideas.
166 U.S. Department of State, 1997 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998 [online], http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/97hrp_index.html (retrieved January 6, 2004). Nematjon Parpiev was last seen in August 1997.
167 According to Nazarov’s wife, three SNB officers—including Tohir Ibrahimov and Riksibai Bikhambaev, and the Tashkent city procurator, Ergash Juraev—took Nazarov from his mosque and threatened the imam as early as 1995, when he gave a sermon in which he asked the congregation to pray to God to protect Mirzoev. Nazarov’s wife also reported that the imam received anonymous letters containing death threats in 1995 and that SNB officer Tohir Ibrahimov threatened Nazarov’s life in 1996. Human Rights Watch interview with Munira Nasriddinova, Tashkent, May 23, 2001. Another person close to the case pointed to the imam’s refusal to work as an informant for the SNB as well as his growing popularity as the factors that propelled him into disfavor with state authorities. Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, May 28, 2001. As with Imam Mirzoev, Nazarov’s true “crime” in the eyes of the state may well have been his popularity, his ability to garner the loyalty and enthusiasm of thousands of young people. Nazarov’s wife estimated that some 5,000 people had attended her husband’s services. Human Rights Watch interview with Munira Nasriddinova, Tashkent, May 23, 2001.
168 The family of Imam Nazarov maintains that he was disappeared by state security forces.
169 Open letter by Muharramkhon Nazarova, mother of Imam Nazarov, to Minister of Internal Affairs Zokirjon Almatov, February 1, 2000.
170 Namangan Province Court verdict issued by Judge K. Abduvaliev, October 30, 1999. Numerous observant Muslims who attended services at the mosque were arrested on religion-related charges beginning in late 1997, according to official court documents and courtroom testimony recorded by Human Rights Watch. The state further claimed that Barnoev was a member of such a criminal group, the goals of which—according to the court’s verdict—were to “use the cloak of religion … to create an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, to take advantage of the religiosity of citizens of Namangan province.…”
171 Indictment of Akhad Barnoev, issued by the head of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Namangan Province Procuracy, October 15, 1999.
172 Namangan Province Court verdict issued by Judge K. Abduvaliev, October 30, 1999. A Supreme Court review of the case resulted in a reduced sentence of sixteen years.
173 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with rights defender Akhmat Abdullaev, April 18, 2001.
174 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, December 4, 2002.
175 Indictment issued by senior police investigator of Special Criminal Affairs R.A. Gafurov, December 28, 1999.
176 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, February 23, 2000.
177 Uzbek state authorities claimed that they only arrested the imam on September 27, 1999, as noted in the verdict of the Tashkent Province Court, issued by Judge Mansura Jalilova, February 29, 2000. But eyewitness statements, including three on file with Human Rights Watch, establish the correct date.
178 Written report to Human Rights Watch, author’s name withheld, undated; and written report to Human Rights Watch from the Organization for Human Rights Protection “Justice,” based in Kyrgyzstan, April 18, 2000. The arrest was a breach of a neighboring country’s national sovereignty, and it occurred at a particularly tense time in Uzbek-Kyrgyz relations. During August 1999 the Uzbek military were unilaterally bombing territory in Kyrgyzstan with the presumed aim of routing out or killing Uzbek militants who had taken hostage several Japanese citizens and members of the Kyrgyz military and who demanded the release of religious prisoners in Uzbekistan. Human Rights Watch World Report 2000, p. 277.
179 Tursunbaev testified about the incommunicado detention at his trial, according to a written report by the Kyrgyz rights group Justice, present at trial as non-lawyer advocates for him, February 3, 2000.
180 Indictment against Iuldash Tursunbaev, issued by senior police investigator of Special Criminal Affairs R.A. Gafurov, December 28, 1999.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, March 8, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Ardzinov, chair, Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, March 9, 2001.
182 Written report by the Kyrgyz rights group Justice, February 3, 2000.
183 Tashkent Province Court verdict, issued by Judge Mansura Jalilova, February 29, 2000.
184 Written report to Human Rights Watch by Justice, February 3, 2000.
185 Tashkent Province Court verdict, issued by Judge Mansura Jalilova, February 29, 2000.
186 Ibid; and Human Rights Watch telephone interview with a person close to the case, February 23, 2000. According to Justice, at least two of the witnesses who testified were prisoners and those who were unable to testify in person were in police custody and under investigation in Namangan and Samarkand, respectively. Written report to Human Rights Watch by Justice, February 3, 2000
187 Verdict of the Tashkent Province Court, issued by Judge Mansura Jalilova, February 29, 2000.
188 Memorial Human Rights Center and the Information Center for Human Rights in Central Asia, List of People Arrested and Tried in Uzbekistan for Political and Religious Reasons (January 1999 to April 2000), Moscow, May 2000.
189 The List of Muslim Victims of Uzbek Government Repression (1990-1999), p. 52. On file with Human Rights Watch. The authors of this report, a group of independent activists working to document abuses against independent Muslims, submitted it to Human Rights Watch as an anonymous document to protect their safety. Decree No. 6, Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, January 8, 1998, issued by Mufti Abdurashid Kori Bakhromov, bans the use of the loudspeaker for the call to prayer. This decree is reprinted in “Crackdown in the Farghona Valley: Arbitrary Arrests and Religious Discrimination”, A Human Rights Watch Report, May 1998, Vol. 10, No. 4 (D), Appendix C.
190 The List of Muslim Victims of Uzbek Government Repression (1990-1999), p. 52. On file with Human Rights Watch.
191 Carlotta Gall, “The Great Game-Glitz Cannot Hide Terror in Uzbekistan,” The Moscow Times, November 20, 1998.
192 The mosque was later branded by the state as a “religious-extremist” one in court documents. For example, the court verdict against Imam Iuldash Tursunbaev lists the Sahobilar mosque along with the Tokhtaboi mosque in Tashkent, the Gumbas or Otallohon mosque in Namangan, and the Jo’mi mosque in Andijan as places where “religious-extremist” schools of thought were developed and spread. Tashkent Province Court verdict, issued by Judge Mansura Jalilova, February 29, 2000.
193 For accounts of persecution of Ergashev’s son, brother, and wife, please see “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” in Chapter III.
194 U.S. Department of State, 1998 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999 [online], http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/98hrp_index.html (retrieved January 6, 2004); and Carlotta Gall, “The Great Game-Glitz Cannot Hide Terror in Uzbekistan,” The Moscow Times, November 20, 1998.
195 U.S. Department of State, 1998 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.
199 Iuldashev was appointed by the Muslim Board as Nazarov’s deputy upon his graduation from Islamic institute in the early 1990s. Electronic communication from Omina Iuldasheva to Human Rights Watch, September 14, 2000; and Human Rights Watch interview with “A.A.,” a person close to the case, Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
200 According to a person close to Iuldashev’s case, several of Nazarov’s other students were also detained on charges of “hooliganism” around the same time. Nazarov’s second deputy, a citizen of Tajikistan who did not have a residence permit to live in Tashkent, was reportedly deported by force. Human Rights Watch interview with A.A., Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
201 Unofficial transcript, Iakasarai District Court, Tashkent, May 11, 1999, written by independent trial monitors, names withheld, June 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with Iuldashev’s attorney, Irina Mikulina, Tashkent, June 10, 1999; and Human Rights Watch interview with A.A., Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
202 The appeals court considered the sentence overly harsh. Tashkent City Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge T. Kh. Nazarov, August 10, 1999.
203 Human Rights Watch interview, with A.A., Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
204 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Irina Mikulina, August 9, 2000.
205 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.
206 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.
207 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 8, 2001.
208 Human Rights Watch interview with the imam’s wife, Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
209 Human Rights Watch interview with independent rights defender, Mukhtabar Akhmedova, Tashkent, June 23, 1998. Court documents state that Abdurakhmonov was, at various times, a student of Nazarov and of “Kobil Kori,” presumably a reference to Kobil Murodov, the one-time imam of Kokoldosh medresseh. Akmal Ikramov District Court verdict, issued by Judge F. B. Shukurov, July 7, 2000. For information regarding Murodov, who died in prison in 1998, see above, in this chapter.
210 Human Rights Watch interview with independent rights defender Mukhtabar Akhmedova, Tashkent, June 23, 1998.
211Ibid; Human Rights Watch interview with the imam’s wife, Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000; and open letter from Muborak Abdurakhmonova, 1998. Abdurakhmonov’s father was also a well-known religious leader, the former imam-khattib of a mosque in Zarafshan, in Novoi province (1991-1992) and later the head of a mosque in Tashkent province (1994-1995).
212 Human Rights Watch interview with Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
213 Human Rights Watch interview with a close relative of Imam Abdurakhmonov, name withheld, Tashkent, July 23, 1998.
214 Iunusabad District Court verdict, issued by Judge R. Abdulkhasanov, December 5, 1998. According to Abdurakhmonov’s wife, his passport indicated that he was a citizen of Kazakhstan, whereas he is in fact an Uzbek citizen. It was rumored that he had planned to leave the country with the false documents. Human Rights Watch interview with the imam’s wife Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify grounds for this charge. It is plausible that Abdurakhmonov would desire to leave the country as had other imams who are believed to have fled to neighboring states when they came under pressure from authorities for displaying independence from state doctrine on religion.
215 Iunusabad District Court verdict, issued by Judge R. Abdulkhasanov, December 5, 1998. In his verdict, Judge Abdulkhasanov noted Abdurakhmonov’s testimony and that of his wife that police planted the narcotics, that he (Abdurakhmonov) was subjected to physical and psychological coercion to force him to confess to the drugs charge, and that the procurator had failed to prove this charge. The judge similarly dismissed a charge against Abdurakhmonov’s co-defendant that the man had a grenade in his car.
216 The 1998 presidential amnesty, like other amnesties announced by the Uzbek government, was a presidential decree ordering the release of certain categories of prisoners, including those charged under article 228 (preparation or use of false identification documents). The judge recognized that this statute was named in the decree and so released Abdurakhmonov and his co-defendant directly from the courtroom.
217 Human Rights Watch interview with Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
218 Human Rights Watch interview with a person close to the case, name withheld, Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
219 According to Abdurakhmonov’s wife, some of the young men whom Abdurakhmonov taught while he was working as imam at Kokoldosh medresseh later became members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and named him as their teacher. The imam’s wife claimed that Abdurakhmonov has no connection to Hizb ut-Tahrir. Human Rights Watch interview with Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
220 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 1, 2000; and Human Rights Watch interview with Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
221 Human Rights Watch interview with Muborak Abdurakhmonova, Tashkent, May 26, 2000.
224 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, August 1, 2000.
225 Akmal Ikramov District Court verdict, issued by Judge F. B. Shukurov, July 7, 2000.
226 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 1, 2000.
227 Akmal Ikramov District Court verdict, issued by Judge F. B. Shukurov, July 7, 2000. Bahrom Abdullaev was sentenced to death in the first of several trials related to the February 16, 1999 bombings. For more information on this bombing trial and the Abdullaev case, see Monica Whitlock, Beyond the Oxus: The Central Asians, London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd, 2002.
228Akmal Ikramov District Court verdict, issued by Judge F. B. Shukurov, July 7, 2000.
234 As is common in Uzbekistan, the defendant was not present at the appeal.
235 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, August 8, 2000.
236 Human Rights Watch interview with Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, March 8, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Ardzinov, Tashkent, March 9, 2001.
237 See above, case of Imam Iuldashev.
238 Human Rights Watch interview with Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, March 8, 2001.
239 Human Rights Watch interview with Munira Nasriddinova, Tashkent, May 23, 2001.
240 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, May 28, 2001.
242 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, the young man’s mother, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
243 A reference to Obid Kori or Obidkhon Kori is a reference to Obidkhon Kori Nazarov. The term Kori is an honorific indicating that the person has memorized the Koran.
244 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
248 According to Isakhojaev’s lawyer, it was in fact the bedroom of the detainee’s mother and father. Written complaint addressed to the chairman of the Tashkent City Court, from Hamid Zainutdinov, December 24, 1998.
249 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
250 Ibid. The procedure of signing a search report is meant to protect citizens from illegal searches and to give them recourse to complain about any wrongdoing by police during the course of the search. If a person has objections to any part of the report, he or she has the right to write his/her version of events and describe police behavior. When a person signs the document without writing in objections, he or she is confirming the veracity of the police officers’ account of the search. The report then serves as an important piece of evidence verifying the legality of the search as it states, for instance, that the search was undertaken in the presence of witnesses, that everything the officers claim to have found was indeed found in the home or on the property, and it accounts for all property taken into possession by police. In Uzbekistan, however, the procedure has been turned around from what was originally intended. Rather than being a tool for recourse, it serves as an obstacle to obtaining justice later in court, and is, in effect, the first in a series of coercive measures to force a detainee or suspect to incriminate him or herself or to force family members to bear witness against the detainee or suspect.
251 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
252 This state-appointed and state-paid lawyer demanded 40,000 som (at least ten times the average monthly wage) from the family as a fee. Ibid.
254 Isakhojaev’s torture was so severe that he was partially paralyzed. Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
256 Written statement to then-U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Robert Seiple, from Sharifa Isakhojaeva, May 20, 2000.
257 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
259 The court verdict alleges on the first page that narcotics were found in Isakhojaev’s right pants pocket, but later the document states that witnesses saw police take something wrapped in white paper out of his left pants pocket. Chilanzar District Court verdict, Tashkent, issued by Judge K. Kh. Toshmatov, November 3, 1998, translated from Uzbek. During the trial, the judge reportedly asked no questions about the narcotics charges, nor about the grenade allegedly found in Isakhojaev’s home. Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
260 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
261 Chilanzar District Court verdict, Tashkent, issued by Judge K. Kh. Toshmatov, November 3, 1998.
264 Ibid; and Tashkent City Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge I. E. Kabilova, Tashkent, December 18, 1998. The Tashkent City Court upheld the lower court’s ruling on appeal.
265 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
266 Written statement to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, U.N. Commission on Human Rights and various human rights organizations, from Sharifa Isakhojaeva, January 30, 2000; and Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
267 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
268 Chilanzar District Court verdict convicting Abdurashid Isakhojaev, Tashkent, issued by Judge K. Kh. Toshmatov, November 3, 1998; and Tashkent City Court appeals verdict against Abdurashid Isakhojaev, issued by Judge I. E. Kabilova, Tashkent, December 18, 1998. Odil Isaev’s own court documents were not available to Human Rights Watch at the time of this writing.
269 Human Rights Watch interview with Sharifa Isakhojaeva, Tashkent, June 1, 2000.
270 Ibid. On appeal, the Supreme Court reduced the term to eight years in a general-regime prison and confiscation of Isaev’s car.
271 The appeals verdict for Isakhojaev further portrays Isaev as an Islamic activist, stating that, “...he, together with his friends Rashid [Abdurashid Isakhojaev] and Mirbosit [full name not available], went to Toi-tepe [on the outskirts of Tashkent] and called people to become believers….” Tashkent City Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge I. E. Kabilova, Tashkent, December 18, 1998.
272 Fergana Province Court verdict issued by Judge N. Iakubjanov, June 3, 2002.
275 Verdict issued by Judge F.K. Shodmonov, Tashkent City Court, hearing held in the courthouse of the Iunusabad District Court, Tashkent, September 21, 2001.
276 For an account of the harassment her daughter faced, see “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” in Chapter III.
277 Verdict issued by Judge F.K. Shodmonov, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, September 21, 2001.
278 Ibid. The judge’s verdict acknowledges that this co-defendant, a young father (born in 1968, father of two), testified in court that police had forced him to say he had been against the government and had been “emir” of a Wahhabi organization and that he recanted that false confession.
279 Indictment of Tashkent city procurator M. I. Naimov, signed by police investigator A. Karshiev, December 18, 2000.
285 In Uzbek the term is given as baitulmol. It is frequently identified as an organization in indictments and court verdicts in Uzbekistan. However, the Arabic term bayt al-mal refers to a treasury. In an Islamic state, it refers to the state treasury.
286 Indictment of Tashkent city procurator M. I. Naimov, signed by police investigator A. Karshiev, December 18, 2000.
287 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov Disctrict Court building, Tashkent, April 9, 2001.
288 Ibid; Maksudov is identified in court documents as a former security guard for the mosque from 1993 to 1998. Indictment of Tashkent city procurator M. I. Naimov, signed by police investigator A. Karshiev, December 18, 2000.
289 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, February 7, 2001.
290 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held at the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, April 9, 2001; and Tashkent City Court verdict, issued by Judge G. Z. Najimov, April 9, 2001. Maksudov was additionally convicted on charges of distribution of literature containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism.
291 Indictment issued by Tashkent city procurator M. I. Naimov, signed by police investigator A. Karshiev, December 18, 2000; and Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held at the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, April 9, 2001.
292 Indictment of seventeen men issued by the Tashkent City Procuracy, signed by senior police investigator K. Khujanov and department chief S.V. Shiniaev, June 20, 2000.
293 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 4, 2000. The trial was held in the building of the Sobir Rahimov District Court, Tashkent.
295 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 21, 2000. Their torture is described in some detail below, in “Torture and Mistreatment in Pre-trial Detention” in Chapter IV.
296 The seventeen defendants were: Gafurjon Toirov, Mansur Juraev, Otabek Maskudbekov, Agzam Astankulov, Ibrahim Obidov, Gairat Sabirov, Faizullo Saipov, Murod Kasymov, Hamidullo Rakhmatullaev, Avazkhon Boimetov, Shukhrat Islamov, Anvar Mirakhmedov, Dilshod Iunusov, Shavkhat Bobokhonov, Shukhrat Umarov, Tahir Obidov, and Bahodir Rakhimov.
297 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 4, 2000. Unless otherwise noted, remaining information on this case derives from this transcript.
299 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, August 4, 2000.
300 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 4, 2000.
302 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Judge Sharipov presiding, August 21, 2000. Also in his decision, Judge Sharipov accused the men of harboring the goal of creating a Caliphate, a system of government desired by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and not usually ascribed to so-called Wahhabis.
303 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Ardzinov, Tashkent, August 21, 2000.
304 Tashkent City Court verdict issued by Judge Sharipov, August 21, 2000.
305 Witness and written testimony of defendants in the group of fifteen men was used to incriminate those in the two group cases described above. One of the defendants in the case of fifteen, Shukhrat Balikov, used the opportunity of his “last word” in court to say that police had coerced him to make false statements incriminating others, including the group of seventeen alleged Wahhabis: “I am not an actor. These are real tears…[S]eventeen young men were convicted because of me… Why should they be blamed because of me? Please let them be released.” Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 1, 2000; Memorial Human Rights Center and the Information Center for Human Rights in Central Asia, List of People Arrested and Tried in Uzbekistan for Political and Religious Reasons (January 1999 to April 2000), Moscow, May 2000; Indictment of fifteen men, criminal case number 20/1517, issued by senior investigator, police Capt. I. S. Umirzakov, signed also by the head of the investigative department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Col. S. V. Shimiaev, June 16, 2000; and unofficial U.S. Embassy transcript of the Tashkent City Court hearing held at Akmal Ikramov District Court building, April 9, 2001. Meanwhile, the court decision condemning Imam Abduvahid Iuldashev and his twelve co-defendants in April 2001 named Kakhramon Saidkhojaev, one of the fifteen accused Wahhabis, as the source that incriminated the imam and others.
306 The fifteen men were: Shukhrat Balikov, Kakhramon Saidkhojaev, Mamurjon Musaev, Makhmud Abdullaev, Tokhir Azimov, Munirjon Aliev, Kudratullo Valiev, Dilshod Alimov, Bakhtior Mirdjalilov, Mirzokhid Mirdjalilov, Ravshan Iunusov, Kamol Shokasimov, Bakhromjon Taimuradov, Anvar Khalilov, and Murodjon Rikhziev.
307 Indictment of fifteen men, criminal case number 20/1517.
308 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 1, 2000; and Indictment of fifteen men, criminal case number 20/1517.
309 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 1, 2000.
310 Indictment of fifteen men, criminal case number 20/1517.
312 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 1, 2000.
314 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Akmal Ikramov District Court building, Tashkent, November 3, 2000.