Annual Report: Uzbekistan 2013

Report
May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Uzbekistan 2013

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  • In February, 12 Turkish businessmen were released from prison following a presidential amnesty in December 2011, and deported to Turkey. They were sentenced in 2011, with 42 other Turkish businessmen, to two to three years' imprisonment for various economic crimes including tax evasion. A documentary broadcast on state television showed some of the convicted businessmen allegedly confessing to committing economic crimes. It also claimed that the men had links to the banned “Nurchilar” Islamic movement. One of the men, Vahit Güneş, former general manager of the Turkuaz shopping centre in Tashkent, began legal action against the Uzbekistani authorities upon his return to Turkey. He alleged that he and others were tortured in SNB custody in order to force them to sign false confessions and that they had not been able to choose their own lawyers. He also alleged other detainees had been tortured in pre-trial detention, and that some had died as a result. Vahit Güneş received medical treatment for his injuries on his return to Turkey. He said another businessman, Hairetdin Öner, was still in hospital being treated for physical and psychological trauma two months after his release from prison.
  • In August, Jehovah's Witness Gulchehra Abdullaeva reported that she had been tortured at a police station in the town of Hazorasp, to make her confess to smuggling banned religious literature into Uzbekistan, a charge she denied. Police officers arbitrarily detained her in July after she returned from a trip to Kazakhstan. She said that they forced her to stand for hours without food or water, placed a gas mask over her head and cut off the air supply to suffocate her. She was made to sign a statement admitting to participating in proscribed religious activities and was then released. On 28 July she was convicted by the Hazorasp District Court of “teaching religious beliefs privately”, and fined. Gulchehra Abdullaeva appealed against her sentence and lodged official complaints with the authorities but officials refused to respond or address her complaints.

Counter-terror and security

The authorities continued to seek the extradition of suspected members of Islamic movements and Islamist groups and parties banned in Uzbekistan in the name of security and the fight against terrorism. They also requested the extradition of political opponents, government critics and wealthy individuals out of favour with the regime. Many of these extradition requests were based on fabricated or unreliable evidence. The government offered diplomatic assurances to sending states to secure the returns, pledging free access to detention centres for independent monitors and diplomats. In practice, they did not honour these guarantees. Those forcibly returned to Uzbekistan faced incommunicado detention, torture and other ill-treatment and, after unfair trials, long prison sentences in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. The authorities were also accused of attempting assassinations of political opponents living abroad.