Hizb ut-Tahrir is an unregistered—effectively, banned—organization.317 At trial, members recounted their main activities as the study of Arabic (in order to read the Koran in its original language), study of the sura, or chapters, of the Koran, and study of Islamic literature produced by Hizb ut-Tahrir, including “The Islamic Charter.”318 They observed the five daily prayers, and many said that upon involvement in the group they abandoned smoking and drinking alcohol, generally believed to be prohibited under Islamic guidelines. They also condemned the use of narcotics and “immodest” forms of dress for women. They proselytized, calling on others to observe these practices as well. When asked to explain the reasons behind their advocacy for a Caliphate and implementation of shari’a, the members interviewed by Human Rights Watch, almost to a person, cited a desire to rid the country of corruption and prostitution.
As with followers of independent imams, there are divergent estimates of how many members of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested. Human Rights Watch has documented 812 cases of arrest and conviction of the group’s members in Uzbekistan.319 The group itself estimated in June 2000 that police had arrested some 4,000 of its members in Uzbekistan during the government’s campaign against independent Islam since 1998.320 By November 2002 the German section of Hizb ut-Tahrir estimated that the government of Uzbekistan had imprisoned as many as 10,000 of the group’s followers.321 The Russian rights group Memorial reported 2,297 religiously and politically motivated arrests it had documented as of August 2001; the group estimated that more than half of the Muslims arrested for nonviolent crimes were those accused of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership.322 In addition to being arrested for membership and gathering to study, adherents of Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested, sometimes en masse, for possession or distribution of the group’s literature or, in some cases, because of simple, accidental proximity to those proselytizing for Hizb ut-Tahrir. For example, during a three-day Hizb ut-Tahrir effort to spread its literature in June 1999, police swept through public markets in Tashkent, arresting hundreds of men. A few were released after brief questioning, but the majority were held and charged.323
This section is divided into three parts. The first part describes three typical group arrests and prosecutions that took place in 1999, when the number of Hizb ut-Tahrir arrests rose dramatically in the wake of the Tashkent bombings. The second part describes two more recent cases of arrest and trial that took place in 2002 and 2003. The third part describes the prosecution’s special focus on the religious ideology of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the content of its publications.
Local human rights activists point to an August 1998 case as the first Hizb ut-Tahrir trial. Unfortunately, no documentation of this trial, nor any testimony, was available at the time of this writing. One of the better-documented early cases of criminal prosecution of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Uzbekistan was heard in the Tashkent City Court in May 1999 and involved twelve men.324 Human Rights Watch attended the reading of the verdict in that trial. Judge Mansur Akhmadjonov’s decision stated that the defendants325 had been intent on establishing Islamic rules and an Islamic state, or Caliphate, in Uzbekistan.
In addition to bringing forth legal arguments, the judge expressed his objection to the group’s religious beliefs. “Real Muslims cannot join this party, and people cannot believe this is the real way of Islam. The Prophet said that the Caliphate will continue for thirty years after his death and [therefore] this is not a contemporary idea. The idea of a Caliphate and converting all people to Islam is not the true way of Islam.”326 The judge made contradictory remarks about Hizb ut-Tahrir’s propensity toward violence. At one point he said that, “They [members of Hizb ut-Tahrir on trial] said they were willing to die on the way [to] Islam and [that] they were ready to use weapons to establish Islamic rules.”327 A moment later the judge declared that, “They [the defendants] say it is necessary to change the government by constitutional will…”328
The judge noted the status of Hizb ut-Tahrir as an illegal party in other countries, including Jordan and Egypt. His verdict was based, however, not on his own analysis of the facts at hand but on a determination passed down from another government agency, the Committee on Religious Affairs (of the Cabinet of Ministers). The committee claimed that Hizb ut-Tahrir literature was against the government and territorial integrity of Uzbekistan and was, therefore, anti-constitutional. Judge Akhmadjonov interpreted this to mean that membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, and possession and distribution of literature or exchange of ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, constituted anti-constitutional activity punishable by law. The court held that the defendants’ ideas constituted a threat to territorial integrity and were a form of anti-state activity.
Regarding defendant Khairullo Islamov, Judge Akhmadjonov emphasized the young man’s commitment to the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir as evidence of his guilt and discounted Islamov’s charges of police wrongdoing:
In summarizing the charges against Akhror Abdurakhmonov, Judge Akhmadjonov remarked simply, “...he carried out tasks for the party and took lessons in the ideas of the party,” he noted that Abdurakhmonov, “...only confessed to membership in an unofficial party.”331 The judge sentenced Akhror Abdurakhmonov to nine years in prison, reduced to eight years on appeal.332 The judge’s enumeration of Faisullo Sadykov’s supposed misdeeds similarly rested on criminalization of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideas and exchange of party literature. The judge noted that Sadykov did not confess in court, but charged, “He was aware of the party’s activities and spread literature of the party in Uzbekistan.” The judge remarked that, like Abdurakhmonov, Sadykov confessed only to party membership.333 He sentenced Sadykov to nine years in prison, which the Supreme Court reduced to eight years.334
Enumerating the crimes of Sirojiddin Tojikhojaev, the judge stated, “In 1993, he met Sharof...and agreed to take lessons...He knew the party was unofficial, but he continued to take lessons. He read “The Islamic Charter”335...he joined the party...he distributed religious literature to party members...and collected money for the party.”336 Tojikhojaev too accused police of wrongdoing: “… [W]hen he was arrested, [he alleged,] the officers planted drugs. He said that the narcotics were not his and that he never takes drugs,” the judge read out from Tojikhojaev’s earlier testimony.337 Judge Akhmadjonov sentenced Tojikhojaev to ten years in prison, but the Supreme Court elected to release him from the courtroom, on three years of parole.338
Defendant Abdurauf Zuparov was found guilty of possessing Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets, a grenade, and heroin. His sixteen-year sentence was reduced by the Supreme Court to fourteen years in prison.339 On charges of illegal possession of heroin and a grenade, and membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, co-defendant Shoaziz Iliasov—who testified in court that police had planted the grenade—was sentenced to nineteen years in prison, which the Supreme Court reduced on appeal to sixteen.340
On the experience of Beksot Juraev, born 1975, Human Rights Watch has more detailed information. Arrested on a Tashkent street the night of August 5, 1998, he was taken to the Akmal Ikramov district police station; en route police allegedly put marijuana in his pocket.341 The same night some twenty armed men—nineteen of them in civilian clothes and presumed by eyewitnesses to be agents of the SNB—searched the family home without showing a warrant.342 The sole uniformed officer present was from the Akmal Ikramov district police station.343 When the detainee’s father asked to invite neighbors to witness the search, officers refused. They said, “We brought our own [witnesses].”344 Relatives present said that, after ransacking the apartment, police claimed to have found a hand grenade among the mattresses in Beksot Juraev’s room.345 They also took literature and cassette tapes in Arabic and English, which Juraev studied at home.346 Officers threatened Juraev’s father, saying that if he refused to sign the police report verifying the search, they would arrest him too.347
Juraev’s family was informed neither of his official arrest nor his place of detention. Family members could not locate him for almost four months. Later, relatives learned that the young man had spent those months incommunicado, in the basement of the MVD in Tashkent.348 According to Juraev’s mother, it was six months before authorities allowed a lawyer to see her son.349 According to his parents, Juraev was physically and psychologically mistreated in detention. Officers beat him with nightsticks, kicked him when he asked to see a doctor, and threatened to kill him if he told anyone they had tortured him.350 The abuse was especially damaging, as Juraev had a frail constitution and a history of illness.351 Police also allegedly told Juraev, “If you do not confess that the grenade we found in your home is yours, we will arrest your brother or father.”352
The judge convicted Juraev on charges of calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order and illegal possession of narcotics and weapons, based on drugs and grenades that witnesses said were planted. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison.353 The Supreme Court slightly reduced his sentence on appeal to a fifteen-year term.354 Summarizing Juraev’s testimony on the final day of the trial, Judge Akhmadjonov noted that the young man had objected to the charges against him. The judge stated, “He said he only prayed and that he met Jahongir and that of his own [free] will he took lessons and read Islamic literature and of his own will participated in the party.”355 The judge noted that Juraev had acknowledged that he studied Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas and learned about Islam from one of his co-defendants and that he later gave lectures on Islam himself. The judge said of Juraev, “He feels that the party ideas are correct and not against the government.”356
In November 1999 almost six months after Juraev’s conviction, authorities finally allowed relatives to visit him in Zangiota prison. His health had worsened, allegedly due to poor sanitary conditions and lack of medical care, and his weight had dropped dramatically.357 He was later transferred to Jaslyk prison, where conditions were even harsher. Persons close to Juraev point out that he was sentenced to imprisonment in a general-regime facility but that Jaslyk prison is in fact the harshest place of detention in Uzbekistan, where strict-regime convicts are often sent.358 After a subsequent family visit with Juraev in Jaslyk prison in May 2000, a person close to the case told Human Rights Watch that the young man had looked weak and thin and was barely able to lift the bag of food that relatives had brought him.359 When they probed about conditions in the prison, Juraev put his fingers to his lips, indicating it was forbidden to speak of such things.360
In July 1999 the Tashkent City Court sentenced thirteen men to prison for membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.361 The men were among those arrested during law enforcement agencies’ first sweeps of Hizb ut-Tahrir members, in late 1998 and early 1999, before the government campaign against the group was intensified in the wake of the February 1999 Tashkent bombings. Ten of the men received sentences of eight to twelve years in prison on charges that included attempted overthrow of the state, while the other three were convicted only on the charge of membership in a banned religious organization and given two years in prison each.362
State authorities repeatedly pointed to the fact that the men took an oath as part of their initiation into Hizb ut-Tahrir as evidence of their status as full-fledged members of the unregistered group and, therefore, as criminals. The content of the oath that provided grounds for incriminating the men was recalled by Tolkhon Riksiev, at the request of the judge: “On behalf of Allah, to become faithful to Islam and spread the Prophet’s words among Muslims.”363 One co-defendant recalled it as a vow: “To be faithful to Islam, protect Islam, [and] be faithful to the rules of Hizb ut-Tahrir.”364 Yet another man described the words of the oath as “On behalf of Allah, I promise to share my knowledge with others.”365
When the attorney for defendant Khikmat Rasulov stood to argue on behalf of his client, he said that he had learned about the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir through discussions with his client and by listening to the other defendants. He stated that, “They answer within religion, refer to the Koran. I never heard anything [from them] against the system or the president.”366 He cautioned the court to remember that a desire to become a pious Muslim did not make a person a criminal, and warned the judge to be wary of the future review of his actions and the judgments of history. “Years will pass,” said the lawyer, “maybe they will go to jail now, but maybe in ten years your policy will change...in ten years, these men will not be considered guilty, so be careful.”367
Speaking on his own behalf, defendant Bahodir Ikramov told the judge, “You should not count me as an enemy of my own people...I am guilty of only one thing and that is my membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and activities in Hizb ut-Tahrir.”368
On August 23, 1999, the Andijan Province Court convicted twenty-six men on charges related to their alleged membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and sent them to prison for terms ranging from three to eighteen years.369 In this case, according to a news story carried on BBC monitoring, which reported on a local paper’s coverage of the trial, the court ruled that Hizb ut-Tahrir was a terrorist organization.370 However, none of the defendants was charged with involvement in a terrorist act.371
The defendants were all from Asaka, a city in Andijan province, in the Fergana Valley, and fourteen of the twenty-six were neighbors in Okchopon, a neighborhood of Asaka.372
Among the fourteen neighbors were Tavakkaljon Akhmedov and Kudratullo Mamatov, along with the latter’s father, Tursunboi Mamatov. Kudratullo Mamatov was the first of the three to be arrested. Officers came to his home late at night on April 19, 1999, and took him to the Asaka police station. They accused him of illegally teaching children about Islam and calling young people to Islam.373 Acquaintances recalled that in a meeting with his wife, the twenty-three-year-old Mamatov said that authorities mistreated him during his detention in the Asaka police station.374 A search of the Mamatov household conducted by MVD and SNB officers one week after his detention failed to turn up any incriminating evidence. Mamatov was transferred to Andijan prison and taken daily to the SNB for questioning. There, SNB investigator Dilshod Akhmedov allegedly demanded that Mamatov reveal the names of the Hizb ut-Tahrir members in his area. Persons close to Mamatov charge that authorities forced the young man to sign a confession.375
Less than a month after police arrested Kudratullo Mamatov, authorities returned to the Mamatov home to arrest the young man’s father. Police conducted a search of the premises at 6:00 a.m. on May 15, 1999.376 Police then claimed to have found one Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet, which witnesses said was planted on a bookshelf in the house. On the basis of a single leaflet they took Tursunboi Mamatov into custody. He was held in Andijan prison and taken to the Asaka department of the SNB for interrogation each day for a week. Authorities denied relatives permission to visit him for the first eighteen days.377
Tursunboi Mamatov, father of four, stood trial alongside his son, Kudratullo. Father and son faced identical charges of inciting national (ethnic), racial, or religious enmity; conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional order of the republic; organization of, or participation in, a banned religious group; organization of, or participation in, a criminal group; and preparation of, or possession with intent to distribute, materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism.378 At trial, Judge Abdumajid Iormatov suggested that the elder Mamatov should ask for forgiveness.379 Tursunboi Mamatov refused to express contrition, and the judge sentenced him and his son to sixteen years each in a strict-regime prison and ordered confiscation of their property.380
On the same morning that police arrested Tursunboi Mamatov, they also detained his neighbor, thirty-nine-year-old Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, a father of four. Seven officers—three of them SNB agents in civilian clothes and the others police officers in uniform—searched the family home.381 According to a female relative, the officers found nothing in their search and promised the man’s family that they were only taking Tavakkaljon in for questioning and would bring him home right away.382 But they remained in the detainee’s home for three hours. One SNB agent questioned Akhmedov’s wife in a separate room of the house, without showing any document authorizing him to interrogate her and without offering her the option of legal representation. She said that the agent asked her about her husband’s acquaintances and activities during the previous ten years.383 She further reported to Human Rights Watch that, before her husband’s arrest, the neighborhood police officer had been coming to the house as often as three times a week, pushing open the door and entering without permission or a warrant of any kind. After her husband’s arrest, the officer continued to come to the house and had threatened family members with physical abuse for speaking to Human Rights Watch. “The children are now afraid of the police,” she reported.384
After police arrested Akhmedov, they took him to the Andijan SNB, charged him with Hizb ut-Tahrir membership, and allegedly tortured him for seventeen days to force him to confess.385 The family was not informed about the place or date of Akhmedov’s trial, just as they had never been officially notified of his arrest.386 They reported having to pay bribes to guards to attend the court proceedings. When called upon to testify in court, Akhmedov said, “If there were enemies of Uzbekistan, I would give my life to save the motherland. But we are not trying to take power. We are praying and calling people to become good Muslims.”387 According to relatives present, Akhmedov refused to ask for forgiveness.388 The court sentenced him to seventeen years in prison, under a strict regime, and ordered confiscation of his property.389
Police officers and approximately forty unidentified men in civilian clothes raided the house of Musharraf Usmanova on the night of April 14, 2002.390 Although a search of the premises failed to produce any illegal materials, the officers placed Usmanova (born 1963) under arrest and took her to an undisclosed location.391 She was missing in custody for seven days, during which time police refused to inform her relatives of her whereabouts or even confirm that she had been detained. Official confirmation of her arrest was given only on April 22, when the judge in a relative’s case announced that Usmanova would soon be tried.392 During pre-trial detention, authorities repeatedly denied Usmanova access to the lawyer of her choice.393
Prosecuting officials said she was the leader of a Hizb ut-Tahrir women’s study circle and charged her with attempted overthrow of the constitution and distribution of extremist literature. On July 16 a Tashkent judge, citing mitigating circumstances in her case, gave Usmanova a two-year suspended sentence and released her from the courtroom. Usmanova had remarried during the years since her husband’s death and was six-months pregnant at the time of her trial.394 According to a local rights defender, Usmanova was compelled upon release to sign a statement vowing that she would not participate in “meetings” or give information to journalists or others regarding her case.395
The Keston News Service quoted the reaction of Usmanova’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Mahbuba Usmanova, to the authorities’ persecution of her family: “Our mother’s only crime was to be a very pious woman. Since the authorities murdered our father, all our male relatives have spent time in prison. At present, five of our relatives are in prison…”396
On July 4, 2003, the Akmal Ikramov District Court convicted fifteen people on charges of involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir.397 Charges included anti-constitutional activity, membership in an illegal religious organization, preparing and distributing literature threatening the security of society, and involving minors in anti-social behavior. With the exception of two defendants who were given suspended sentences, the defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to fifteen years.398
As evidence of the defendants’ guilt, the judge emphasized that the police had confiscated a number of Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets about harassment of Muslims, economic and other problems in Uzbekistan, and U.S. involvement in Uzbekistan, as well as literature from international human rights organizations.399 As with many similar cases, the state’s evidence also included a statement by a Committee on Religious Affairs expert averring that the confiscated literature was anti-constitutional. The defendants repeatedly asked the judge to summon the expert. When the judge denied their request, the defendants announced a hunger strike and refused to appear in court after a break. The expert never appeared before the court.
Other important pieces of evidence, according to the judge, included testimony given by defendants to police during the pre-trial investigation, although several defendants stated in court that they gave such testimony under duress of torture.400
Police and judicial authorities have regarded any person who distributed Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as a criminal, as when Hizb ut-Tahrir activists carried out a three-day campaign to distribute the group’s leaflets in Tashkent bazaars from June 14 to 16, 1999. According to Mikhail Ardzinov, chairman of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, police arrested some 200 leafletters on just June 15 and 16, in public markets including Chorsu bazaar in the old city, Kulyuk bazaar, and the Hippodrome, the capital’s largest market.401 The majority of those picked up during the sweeps were placed under arrest and, as of late June that year, were being held in police stations in the Sobir Rakhimov, Akmal Ikramov, Shaikhantaur, and Biktimir districts of Tashkent.402
Authorities also arrested individuals who were in possession of Hizb ut-Tahrir literature and leaflets but who did not distribute them to others.
The presiding judge in this case portrayed Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as contraband, declaring, “Books were used as weapons.”412 When questioned by the judge about the content of the Hizb ut-Tahrir literature he had studied, defendant Shahmaksud Shobobaev said that the books called on people “...to restore Islamic life, to make Muslims’ lives accord with Islamic rules.”413 Shobobaev’s co-defendant, Tolkhon Riksiev, was also called upon to describe the content of “The Islamic Charter,” the study and possession of which was used as grounds for the conviction of at least dozens of men. “It calls for praying and other issues, such as how to behave if someone dies. It does not include advocacy for overthrowing the government or contradicting the government,” he asserted.414
Co-defendant Danior Khojimetov went further, contending that the men’s religious activities and even what he characterized as their opposition to the constitution of Uzbekistan fell within the parameters of the right to free expression: “Uzbekistan is a democratic state, and in a democratic state there is freedom of conscience and freedom of ideas, and this is the basis of democracy. Each citizen has the right to express his views. We expressed ideas against the constitution, but I think this is freedom of expression.”415 Danior Khojimetov was sentenced to twelve years in prison on charges of illegal possession of narcotics and attempted overthrow of the constitutional order.
With specific reference to defendants Juraev, Iliasov, and others, the judge added, “...[T]hey said they did not carry out actions against the government, but only wanted to discuss the Islamic way of life. But, it is evident that this propaganda itself is against the constitution of Uzbekistan.…”418 He further cited the conclusions of the Committee on Religious Affairs of the Cabinet of Ministers, which ruled that Hizb ut-Tahrir literature, “is against the territorial integrity of Uzbekistan and its government.”419 Judge Akhmadjonov condemned not only the use of the written word but also spreading religious ideas verbally. He warned, “They propagandized youth, and young people are the future of our country...”420 “Propagandizing” or discussing ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir was found by Judge Akhmadjonov to be particularly incriminating evidence against the defendants, whom he accused of having held “underground lessons” in Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas.421
Based on the report of the Committee on Religious Affairs, the judge told the courtroom:
At the heart of the government’s persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideas is the contention that the group’s support for an Islamic government or Caliphate, ruled by Islamic law, is a call to subvert the existing government of Uzbekistan. The government portrays discussion of alternative forms of government based on religion as active attempts to overthrow the state. This was in evidence when Judge Rakhmonov of the Tashkent City Court declared the thirteen men on trial guilty of anti-state activity because, “They said the democratic system is not good and shari’a should be established instead through a Caliphate.”423
In this case as in many others, the court conflated belief in Hizb ut-Tahrir doctrine with action against the state. In other words, it found the very belief that a Caliphate would be a good form of government, preferable to the current government, and expression of this belief are tantamount to trying to seize power, or take violent action to overthrow the existing state. A belief in the desirability of applying a different set of laws over a territory, however, even an outright endorsement of a new form of government, is not the same as taking action or inciting action against the state. A religious belief is not an action against the state. Even if the Uzbek government were to claim that Hizb ut-Tahrir’s expression is political and not religious, because it is nonviolent expression, the government does not have the right to repress it.
Hizb ut-Tahrir literature advocates the Caliphate. It states that only Muslims can be legitimate leaders of Muslims and asserts that only Islam can be the legitimate basis for political, social, and economic order. Significantly it does not provide a roadmap or guidance of law to effect the political change necessary to implement such a vision.
Hizb ut-Tahrir leadership based outside the country does not contest that it seeks to change Uzbekistan’s form of government, but maintains that it seeks change through persuasion and not force. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, British members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, part of the leadership committee of the group in the U.K., told Human Rights Watch that the group indeed objects to the governing system in Uzbekistan and elsewhere. These representatives told Human Rights Watch that the group seeks the establishment of a new system. Specifically, when asked by a Human Rights Watch representative, “Would you agree with the Uzbek government that members of Hizb ut-Tahrir are attempting to encroach the constitutional order of Uzbekistan?” The leading member of the group’s U.K. chapter, Jalaluddin Patel, replied, “We’ve made it clear that we want to replace the system in Uzbekistan with the Islamic system. I think our members haven’t kept that quiet there, as you know.”424 Another member of the leadership committee, when asked about any plans on the part of Hizb ut-Tahrir to attempt to register with the government of Uzbekistan, said that the issue of registration was moot, “…unless they allow for a registration process which allows entities to call for the removal of the Uzbek constitution….”425
Hizb ut-Tahrir’s vision for change, often described as Utopian by outside observers, appears to rely on the spread of the group’s ideas and the belief that these ideas will become irresistible and then will become the dominant ideas of a given society. This was articulated also by the group’s leading U.K. representative when he was asked how Hizb ut-Tahrir would replace the existing system in Uzbekistan without using violence, as it claims is it’s goal. Jalaluddin Patel told Human Rights Watch:
Emphasizing the group’s view of the power of ideas, another member of the U.K. chapter’s committee remarked, “With this confidence in thought, we believe that there is no regime that cannot be toppled, and that can’t be toppled by thought. And this is the strongest weapon that exists.”427
Law enforcement authorities and courts have treated involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir study groups, where participants read traditional Islamic texts as well as literature published by Hizb ut-Tahrir, as evidence of anti-state sentiment and intent to commit subversion.
Local human rights defenders claim that around one hundred residents of General Uzakov Street, a long boulevard in Tashkent, were arrested in a matter of weeks and charged with membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.428 Human Rights Watch independently confirmed the arrest or detention of five of these neighbors—Mirabid Iakiaev, Komil Masudov, Sarvar Masudov, Sanjar Masudov, and also the Masudovs’ sister, Shoknoza Musaeva—on religion-related charges.
Shoknoza Musaeva was arrested in June 1999, and sent to prison by a Tashkent court. She was charged with membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and teaching other young women about Islam using books that favored establishing an Islamic state.429
Police arrested the twenty-nine-year-old Musaeva, mother of two, at her home on June 1, 1999, for membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and, according to one relative, “Koran distribution.”430 The state accused her of teaching several religious women using “The Islamic Social Charter” (presumably a reference to the Hizb ut-Tahrir publication “The Social System of Islam”) and the published work “Hizb ut-Tahrir,” both introductory texts that set out the aims and principles of the group. The state also accused Musaeva of having sold copies of this literature to her students for 150 som, the equivalent of about U.S. $0.25.431 The court justified her arrest and conviction by reference to an expert evaluation of the religious literature that she had allegedly taught. The evaluation found that, “...in these books, the idea of struggling to establish an Islamic state controlled by a Caliph is propagated.”432 These allegations that Musaeva was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, taught others about Islam using Hizb ut-Tahrir and other Islamic literature, possessed and sold such literature, and that this literature was deemed by government experts to contain ideas about establishing an Islamic state, formed the entirety of the prosecution’s case against the young woman.
In court, Musaeva acknowledged that she was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, but stated that the ideas of the group were not against the government.433 Speaking of Shoknoza and their other arrested children—Sarvar, Komil, and Sanjar Masudov—Musaeva’s parents told Human Rights Watch, “They taught their friends Islam; how to live well….The government couldn’t tolerate this.”434
After holding the women in detention for four days, police took them to a “courtroom” in the district police station. Mukhtabar M. described the police trial, “The police called a lawyer and the judge tried us and yelled at us. He said, “Why don’t you like Karimov?” I said, “I don’t know about politics, I used to live well...but now I am on pension and don’t have enough to live. I can’t even get half a bag of flour. I can’t feed my children...Maybe where you work, you make enough money, but we don’t. We choose the Will of Allah.”438 The judge ordered Mukhtabar M.’s arrest, saying to her, “You will find the ‘Will of Allah’ in a prison cell.”439
The other women were fined and released. Mukhtabar M. was taken to the women’s prison on the outskirts of Tashkent where she served a ten-day sentence and was released. Authorities failed to provide her with any document certifying her arrest or release.440 Authorities continued to monitor Mukhtabar M.’s activities after release, compelling her to report regularly to her local mahalla committee, which also organized a public denunciation of her and other independent Muslims.
Judicial authorities joined government leaders and official Muslim clerics in calling on observant Muslims to restrict their study of Islam within the confines of state structures. Judge Rakhmonov of the Tashkent City Court told one Hizb ut-Tahrir member who said he joined the group in order to study Islam, “...there is no objection if you want to study Islam...we have an Islamic Institute and a religious board [the Muslim Board]. Why don’t you go to that institute? You can go abroad [to study], if you join the government channels.”444 When the judge later suggested again that those interested in learning about Islam could “go to the Mufti,” defendant Shahmaksud Shobobaev pointed out, “We have our own way of teaching Islam.”445
In fact, according to the testimony of men convicted for Hizb ut-Tahrir membership by various courts, an overwhelming majority of them joined the group in order to obtain instruction in Islamic rules and principles. Hizb ut-Tahrir member Tolkhon Riksiev told the court of a conversation with an acquaintance who attended his mosque. Riksiev expressed to the man a desire to learn more about Islam. “We used to pray and we studied Islamic rules. We used to talk about religion, and he asked if I wanted to learn it better and said if I joined the party, they would teach me, so I decided to join,” he said.446 His co-defendant, Abdukhalil Gafurov, echoed Riksiev, “I joined it to learn [about] religion,” he said.447
317 For an analysis of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s legal status in Uzbekistan, see above “Notes on Wahhabism, ‘Wahhabis,’ and Hizb ut-Tahrir” in Chapter II.
318 This is a reference to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s draft constitution, published in The System of Islam. Electronic communication from Imran Waheed, member of the leadership committeee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, to Human Rights Watch, May 30, 2002; and Human Rights Watch interview with Imran Waheed, London, June 29, 2002.
319 As of September 25, 2003, there were 812 people convicted for membership in, affiliation with, or possession of literature by Hizb ut-Tahrir whose cases had been reviewed by Human Rights Watch and entered into the Human Rights Watch database of religious prisoners. The remaining 417 cases in the database were those of people accused of Wahhabism or affiliation with an independent imam. As noted above, the cases of approximately 150 individuals remained to be examined and entered into the database.
320 Hizb ut-Tahrir statement addressed to human rights organizations, June 15, 2000. On file with Human Rights Watch.
321 “Statement Regarding the False Accusations Levelled against Hizb ut-Tahrir by the German Press and German Politicians to the Members of Parliament, the Political Wings, and to All the Citizens of this Country,” issued by Shakir ‘Aasim, Hizb ut-Tahrir representative, Germany, November 4, 2002.
322 Of the 2,297 cases documented by the group, 1,967 of them were cases of people not charged with violence. At least 33 of these people were not independent Muslims, but other categories of prisoners, such as Christians or journalists. The group estimated that fifty-five percent of the 1,967 people were targeted for membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. The group noted that the states’ case against those 330 people charged with political violence should be looked at with skepticism given the pattern of state fabrication of evidence and use of criminal pretexts to justify politically and religiously motivated arrests. 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 (December 1997 to August 2001), Moscow, August 2001. This report was updated in August 2002; the later report cited new data about another 269 political and religious prisoners.
323 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Ardzinov, Tashkent, June 19, 1999. Some of these cases are described below in this chapter.
324 Human Rights Watch is aware of two earlier relevant trials. Two men—Rustam Mirzaev and Abdulla Shodmonov—were tried by the Chinoz District Court in Tashkent province for Hizb ut-Tahrir membership in April 1999. The men were arrested as early as November 1998. Both were found guilty of attempted overthrow of the state and possession or distribution of “extremist, fundamentalist, or separatist” literature. Mirzaev was sentenced to thirteen years in prison while his codefendant, Shodmonov, who was also accused of illegal narcotics possession, received a fourteen-year term. While relatively little information was available regarding their case, the official court documents do reveal the religious nature of the allegations. More is known regarding the case of Abdurashid Isakhojaev, who frequented Imam Nazarov’s mosque and was charged primarily with “Wahhabism,” but who was also accused of affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir in November 1998. His case is described above in “Imams, Their Followers, and ‘Wahhabis’” in Chapter III.
325 The twelve defendants were: Abdurauf Zuparov, Shoaziz Iliasov, Khairullo Islamov, Akhror Abdurakhmonov, Faisullo Sadykov, Abdusalom Sattarov, Beksot Juraev, Abduvali Guliamsov, Abduaziz Inoiatov, Sirojiddin Tojikhojaev, Nozim Maksudov, and Asadullo Mirsamadov.
326 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
332 Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge Akbarov, August 13, 1999.
333 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
334 Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge Akbarov, August 13, 1999.
335 As noted above, this is a reference to the draft constitution of Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is found in The System of Islam, the first text covered in Hizb ut-Tahrir study circles.
336 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
338 Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge Akbarov, August 13, 1999.
341 Letter from Rakhim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, parents of Beksot Juraev, to Ombudswoman Sayora Rashidova, October 18, 1999; and Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000.
342 Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000; and written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
343 Ibid. The name of the uniformed officer is on file with Human Rights Watch.
344 Written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
345 Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000; and written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
346 Written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
347 Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000; and letter from Rakhim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, parents of Beksot Juraev, to Ombudswoman Sayora Rashidova, October 18, 1999. For information on the importance of search reports to a case, see above, “Imams, Their Followers, and ‘Wahhabis’” in Chapter III.
348 Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000.
349 Written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
350 Letter from Rahim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, to Ombudswoman Sayora Rashidova, October 18, 1999.
351 Juraev has reportedly been ill since childhood, but does not possess any official documents certifying his disability. In a letter to President Karimov, Juraev’s mother noted that his illnesses were considered grave enough to excuse him from military service. Letter from Umida Juraeva to President Karimov, March 2, 2000. In an earlier letter, his parents also describe their son’s chronic ailments in detail: born with a dislocated hip, he had complications following surgery as a child, and thus contracted hepatitis, heart disease, and a form of meningitis. His parents state that his illnesses were registered with a doctor and that he is still in need of treatment today. Letter from Rakhim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, to President Karimov, December 7, 1999.
352 Letter from Rahim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, to Ombudswoman Sayora Rashidova, October 18, 1999; and written statement from Umida Juraeva to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, March 2, 2000.
353 Tashkent City Court verdict, issued by Judge Mansur Akhmadjonov, May 14, 1999.
354 Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge Akbarov, August 13, 1999.
355 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
357 Letter from Rakhim Juraev and Umida Juraeva, to President Karimov, December 7, 1999; and Human Rights Watch interview, names withheld, Tashkent, February 10, 2000.
358 Jaslyk is officially designated as a general-regime prison, but convicts sentenced to both general and strict-regime incarceration are sent to that facility. For a description of the “regime” categories of Uzbek prisons, see “Treatment in Prison” in Chapter IV.
359 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, June 5, 2000.
361 Hearings were held in the Chilanzar District Court building.
362 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 20, 1999.
363 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript,Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, June 30, 1999.
366 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held at the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 9, 1999.
369 The defendants were: Ismatullo Urmanov, Pulatjon Jabbarov, Mohammad-ali Iunusov, Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, Abdummanob Iakubov, Muhammad-sharif Urmanov, Zokirjon Mamadjonov, Ulugbek Abdullaev, Shukhratbek Kuchkarov, Boburjon Akiulov, Abduvahob Akhmedov, Ravshan Mekhmonov, Abdumajid Iuldashev, Ibrohimjon Juraev, Doniorbek Abdurakhmonov, Abduvohid Urmanov, Kudratullo Mamatov, Nematullo Babokhonov, Tursunboi Mamatov, Shodmonbek Oripov, Muminjon Ibragimov, Abdujalil Akhmedov, Zievuddin Akhmedov, Zoidjon Islamov, Yadgarbek Boltabaev, and Fakhriddin Urmanov. 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.
370 Kriminalnye Vesti Fergany newspaper, In Russian, February 8, 2000, English translation in BBC Monitoring, February 14, 2000.
371 Indictment, issued by the Andijan province procurator, June 14, 1999.
372 Human Rights Watch interview with relatives of Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, Asaka, Andijan, May 2000; and 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.
373 Human Rights Watch interview with persons close to Mamatov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 18, 2000.
376 Human Rights Watch interview with persons close to Tursunboi Mamatov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 18, 2000.
378 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.
379 Human Rights Watch interview with persons close to Tursunboi Mamatov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 18, 2000.
380 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.
381 The name of one of the SNB officers who conducted the search is on file with Human Rights Watch.
382 Human Rights Watch interview with relatives of Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 2000.
383 Human Rights Watch interview with the wife of Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, Asaka, Andijan, May 2000. Human Rights Watch has withheld her name at her request.
384 Ibid. For details regarding the threats made to the Akhmedov family, see Chapter IV.
386 Human Rights Watch interview with relatives of Tavakkaljon Akhmedov, names withheld, Asaka, Andijan, May 2000.
389 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.
390 Human Rights Watch press release, “Uzbekistan: Round-up of Women Linked to Islamic Groups,” May 1, 2002. Usmanova is the widow of Farhod Usmanov, who was accused of possession of a Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflet and who died in police custody in June 1999. For details regarding his case, see below, “Torture and Mistreatment in Pre-trial Detention” in Chapter IV.
392 Ibid. The relative was Nasiba Uzakova, a woman from Tashkent who was charged along with three other women with Hizb ut-Tahrir membership. Uzakova was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on April 24, 2002. Human Rights Watch attended the trial where the defendants testified that their religious activities consisted of meeting privately for prayer and Islamic study. One of the women testified in court that police beat them or threatened physical violence to coerce confessions and to punish them for their activities. Uzakova’s husband had been convicted on similar charges and sentenced to a fifteen-year term in 2000. Ibid.
394 Her second husband, Istam Khudoiberdiev, and a son-in-law, Ismail Ortikov, were reportedly also arrested and convicted for membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir and are currently in prison serving lengthy terms. Associated Press, July 18, 2002.
395 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vasila Inoiatova, February 18, 2003. The statement is presumed to be similar to those signed by other persons released from prison or police custody or otherwise on a list of suspect people and the scope of topics on which Usmanova promised not to speak presumably includes the cases of other family members.
396 “Uzbekistan: Murdered Muslim Preacher’s Widow Arrested,” Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, April 19, 2002. The cases of Usmanova’s relatives are dealt with below, “Family Members: Arrests, House Arrest, Harrassment” in Chapter III.
397 The defendants were: Ravshan Shonasyrov, Ravshan Iusupkhojaev, Olimkhon Maksumkhanov, Shavkat Khojev, Komiljon Gafurov, Khairullo Arziev, Kobiljon Abdurasulov, Ibrokhimjon Okulkhujaev, Ikrom Narkhojaev, Khikmat Buriev, Khasan Bomuratov, Abdukhalil Omonov, Zakhid Kasymov, Khasanbek Saidbekov, and Khojiakbar Nuriddinov. Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Akmal Ikramov District Court, Tashkent, May 29, 2003.
398 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Akmal Ikramov District Court, Tashkent, July 4, 2003.
401 Human Rights Watch interview with Mikhail Ardzinov, Tashkent, June 19, 1999.
403 Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, July 21, 1999.
405 Ibid. At the time of this writing, Human Rights Watch had no further information on Abdullaev’s fate. His name did not appear on a September 1999 list of released prisoners.
406 Human Rights Watch interview with Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, July 21, 1999. No further information regarding his fate was available as of November 2002.
407 Human Rights Watch interview by telephone, name withheld, February 13, 2001.
409 Human Rights Watch interview with an eyewitness, name withheld, Tashkent, February 14, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview with a second eyewitness, name withheld, Tashkent, February 26, 2001.
410 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 8, 1999.
412 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court hearing held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 9, 1999.
413 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, June 30, 1999.
415 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 9, 1999.
416 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999. There is in fact no law or decree in Uzbekistan forbidding Hizb ut-Tahrir literature and no law against creation of “propaganda” about Islam. But, as described above in “The Legal Setting” in Chapter II, laws in the criminal code criminalize “extremist” “fundamentalist” or “separatist” speech, without providing criteria for these categories. While the judge was not strictly accurate in his interpretation of the law, he was able to exploit the law’s vagueness.
417 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
423 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 20, 1999. As noted above, the thirteen men were convicted to prison terms ranging from two to twelve years.
424 Human Rights Watch interview with Jalaluddin Patel, head of the leadership committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, London, June 29, 2002.
425 Human Rights Watch interview with Sajjad Khan, member of the leadership committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, London, June 29, 2002.
426 Human Rights Watch interview with Jalaluddin Patel, head of the leadership committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, London, June 29, 2002.
427 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Abdulla Robin, member of the leadership committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, London, June 29, 2002.
428 Human Rights Watch interview with Vasila Inoiatova, Tashkent, August 11, 2000.
429 Musaeva was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the state and organizing an illegal religious group. These serious charges were based on no allegation or evidence other than her membership in the group, possession and sale of Hizb ut-Tahrir literature, and the accusation that she taught others about Islam.
430 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, November 3, 1999; and Human Rights Watch interview with rights defender Mahbuba Kosymova, Tashkent, June 22, 1999.
431 Urta-Chirchik District Court verdict, issued by Judge T. Sh. Zainutdinov, August 12, 1999.
433 Human Rights Watch interview with the mother and father of Shoknoza Musaeva, Tashkent, April 13, 2000; and Urta-Chirchik District Court verdict, issued by Judge T. Sh. Zainutdinov, August 12, 1999.
434 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoknoza Musaeva’s mother and father, Tashkent, April 13, 2000.
435 Human Rights Watch interview with “Mukhtabar M.” (not her real name), Tashkent, February 2001.
441 Indictment of nine accused members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, including Muzafar Avazov, issued by Tashkent City Procurator M. I. Naimov, June 23, 2000.
442 Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Tashkent, February 26, 2001.
443 For more information see “Uzbekistan: Two Brutal Deaths in Custody,” Human Rights Watch press release, August 10, 2002.
444 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court trial held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, June 30, 1999.
448 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 9, 1999.
449 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court held in the Chilanzar District Court building, Tashkent, July 20, 1999.
450 Human Rights Watch unofficial transcript, Tashkent City Court, Tashkent, May 14, 1999.
451 Supreme Court appeals verdict, issued by Judge Akbarov, August 13, 1999.