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Uzbek Government Seen as Increasingly Repressive

(Washington, DC--March 29, 2001) A leading Uzbek human rights activist told an RFE/RL briefing this week that the Uzbek authorities are staging "continuous criminal trials" as part of their effort to take total control of society.

Talib Yakubov, the general secretary of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, said that the Soviet-era holdovers who rule Uzbekistan have arrested tens of thousands of young people since 1997, typically justifying these actions by claiming a threat from Islamic fundamentalism.

Then, the authorities put on show trials to try to intimidate others. "Groups of 10 to 30 individuals are tried at once," Yakubov said, "with a trial of 108 persons about to start in the city of Termiz." Yakubov's group has succeeded in monitoring several of these trials, he said, and it has found that the courts convict people without any evidence at all.

In response to questions, Yakubov said that "at least half of the security agents [in Uzbekistan] are also Russia's security agents." But on its own, he added, the government of President Islam Karimov has created a "huge machine" which fields 40,000 security police in Tashkent alone, recruits as many as 2,500 informers per month nation-wide, and "now controls the President himself."

Despite this repression, Yakubov said that human rights groups continue to work in Uzbekistan because "we are blessed by God with brave individuals" and receive help from international organizations concerned with human rights.

Yakubov said he was convinced that U.S. government intervention has kept the Karimov regime from closing his group altogether. He also said that international broadcasting, including by the Voice of American and RFE/RL, played an important role in helping Uzbeks to resist repression.