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Secret Trials in Uzbekistan; and a Remarkable Tajik Talent

13/10/2009

While the Home Office bemoans the law lords ruling that forced them to revoke a control orderagainst a British-Libyan imam rather than reveal sensitive information, their counterparts in Uzbekistan suffer no such inconvenient constraints.

EurasiaNet reports on the difficulties encountered in getting any information at all about the ongoing trial of at least a dozen people suspected of carrying out the attacks in Andijan and Khanabad in May. As we previously discussed here, responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Islamic Jihad Union. President Karimov vowed to find the individuals responsible, and after arrests were made promised a fair and open trial. Now, however, the latter promise seems to have gone by the wayside.

It is hardly surprising that the Uzbek regime would shirk transparency and accountability in this instance, especially given the murky nature of militant activities in the country and the need to maintain a convenient terrorist bogeyman to justify repressive government actions. A fair and open trial risks revealing information embarrassing or incriminating for the regime, or puncturing the official characterisation of the terrorist threat.

The vague nature of Uzbekistan’s public anti-terrorism campaign can also be seen in the recent posting of Wanted posters in Tashkent for individuals suspected of ‘grave crimes’ (apparently, religious extremism) for which no details are given.

One would not really expect much more from a regime such as Karimov’s. One might, however, be a bit surprised to hear that OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights believes that Uzbekistan is making progress on human rights. While I’m sure the unnamed defendants in the Andijan case are relieved that the death penalty has been abolished, I imagine it’s not much consolation if they end up spending the rest of their lives in jail after a trial that seems anything but fair and open.

On a lighter note, one of the biggest stories to come out of Central Asia lately is the tale of Tajik Jimmy, Russia’s own version of Susan Boyle, who merited a full profile in the New York Times recently. Baimurat Allaberiyev, a former shepherd turned migrant worker in Russia, has shot to fame after YouTube clips of his remarkable performances of Bollywood songs went viral. One of the earlier ones can be seen here; a more professional version here. He really does seem a remarkable talent, and one hopes that the trials he was enduring at the time of his profile interview (during which he asked for money to replace the teeth knocked out by thugs earlier this year) will soon pass.
Image courtesy AFP – Getty Images