Uzbek police today detained 15 rights activists staging a protest outside the Kyrgyz Embassy in Tashkent to mark last year's violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
The protesters, members of the Ezgulik (Goodness) and Expert working group, held up placards calling on Kyrgyz authorities to "stop persecuting" the Uzbek minority in Kyrgyzstan and to punish those responsible for what they called "genocide," a reference to the ethnic clashes that began one year ago and left some 470 people dead and thousands more injured or homeless.
Most of the victims in the violence were Uzbeks, tens of thousands of whom fled to Uzbekistan until the violence subsided.
International investigations of the violence support claims that Uzbeks were unjustly targeted but fail to substantiate Uzbek allegations that the reprisals constituted "genocide."
Vasila Inoyatova, chairwoman of the human rights group Ezgulik, told RFE/RL from a Tashkent detention center that the arrests were an "embarrassing act on the part of the Uzbek regime, which is not marking Kyrgyz events or allowing others to do so."
The activists in Tashkent also demanded the release of Azimjan Askarov, a prominent ethnic Uzbek rights activist sentenced to life imprisonment in Kyrgyzstan for his alleged role in the killing of a Kyrgyz policeman during the violence in June 2010.
Kyrgyz authorities have rejected international appeals for his release. No verdict on his appeal has been made.