(Prague, Czech Republic--May 30, 2005) A Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent was led to a secret mass grave on the outskirts of the embattled city of Andijon, Uzbekistan and spoke to gravediggers who said 74 bodies had been buried there. The correspondent was also told that this was one of several such sites in and around Andijon. The name of the RFE/RL correspondent is not being disclosed for reasons of safety. The correspondent visited the site on May 27, taken there by a community elder named Juraboy. The next day, Mr. Juraboy, a man in his late fifties, was stabbed to death by two unknown assailants.
People were reluctant to speak to the correspondent because of continuing arrests and isolated killings in the region, but the gravediggers did tell RFE/RL that the first batch of bodies was brought by truck on May 13. They said corpses were brought in three large cargo trucks and that gravediggers from Russian Orthodox cemeteries were brought in to bury them, after what many Uzbeks now call "Bloody Friday" -- when mass protest and indiscriminate shooting by government authorities into a crowd of thousands in Andijon killed a still-unspecified number of people. The government admits a death toll of 173. Human rights activists say more than 1,000 people were killed that night.
The gravediggers said there were 37 graves on the site near Andijon and each contained two bodies. Some of the graves had clearly been opened. A nearby resident told RFE/RL that families of some of the victims had come later to recover the bodies of their loved ones and take them home for a proper Muslim burial. RFE/RL has learned of another mass grave site outsaide of Andijon and a third mass grave in the center of the city, in the botanical gardens.
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service broadcast an interview today (May 30) with Vitaly Ponomaryov, director of the Central Asia Program at the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center. Ponomaryov told the Uzbek Service that "planes flew out of Andijon beginning late in the evening on 13 May. In the course of 24 hours, there were around 18 flights. Our source for this information doesn't know where they were flying to, but he spoke with an eyewitness who talked about 36 bodies that were loaded into one plane alone."
More information on the discovery of mass graves at Andijon, Uzbekistan can be found on the RFE/RL website
, or on RFE/RL's "Unrest in Uzbekistan" webpage
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Uzbekistan, produced in Prague and the service's Tashkent Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, mediumwave and satellite broadcasts. Uzbek Service programming is also available via the Internet, at www.rferl.org
and at the service's website www.ozodlik.org