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Uzbekistan23 September 2005

Finger pointed at western media for fomenting Andijan revolt

The 15 alleged leaders, who all pleaded guilty on 20 September 2005 to starting the revolt, the following day accused the western media of organising the 13 May 2005 uprising.

“This mockery of a trial worthy of Stalin’s era appears particularly alarming to us in terms of the future of press freedom in the country. The defendants have made statements directly accusing western journalists from the BBC and Associated Press who had the courage to cover this particularly terrible event, but also journalists who never went to Andijan,” the organisation said.

“ This trial demonstrates once again the pressure brought to bear on those who exposed what really happened that day ” it said.

The defendants called the Andijan revolt a “foreign plot” and said, among other things, that the journalists on the spot had been “financed by foreign terrorist organisations”. According to them it was the western journalists who suggested to the accused that they should “imitate a peaceful revolution to create chaos.”

One of the defendants quoted by name a Reuters reporters who had not even been there during the uprising. A western diplomat attending the trial said it appeared the defendants were repeating confessions that had been dictated to them.

Elsewhere, on 19 September, the Namangan appeal court confirmed a six-month jail sentence against Nosir Zokirov, correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for “insulting a member of the Uzbek security services”. Zokirov was one of the first journalists to cover the Andijan uprising. Eight other local correspondents for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have been harassed by the Uzbek authorities since the events of 13 May.

Overnight on 12-13 May 2005, an armed group raided the prison in Andijan to release 23 Muslim businessmen who had been accused of Islamism. The government of President Islam Karimov acknowledged the deaths, as a result of police intervention, of 187 people, the majority of whom it described as “Islamist terrorists”. Human rights activists put the deaths at between 500 and 1,000 and have accused the Uzbek government of staging this trial to conceal its own key role in the massacre.

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