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Uzbekistan: Protests In London, Geneva, Almaty Denounce Government

Protesters in Geneva today Prague, 18 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Protests took place in London, Geneva, and Almaty today against the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the violence in Andijon.

Hundreds of Muslims of many nationalities gathered in front of the Uzbek Embassy in London today.

A spokesman for the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic movement, Imran Waheed, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the protest was to denounce the government of Islam Karimov and what he called the "hypocrisy" of Western governments allied with it in the U.S.-led war on terror.

"We are demanding the release of all political prisoners and an end to the tyranny of the Karimov regime, but there has been no response from the embassy. And this doesn't surprise us, because we believe the embassy is just a weak and feeble diplomatic representation of a weak and feeble government," Waheed said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in Uzbekistan, where Tashkent accuses it of using violence in its self-declared effort to create an Islamic state in Central Asia. The group says it is nonviolent and denies Uzbek government charges that it instigated the violence that began in eastern Uzbekistan last week.

Organizers of another protest today in Geneva say that up to 60 people demonstrated in front of the UN office there.

Safar Bekcan, a dissident Uzbek writer and former political prisoner, told RFE/RL before the protest that the purpose was to bring international attention to the violence in eastern Uzbekistan.

"The purpose of this meeting is to attract international public attention to, and raise awareness about, how the dictator Karimov suppressed peaceful demonstrators in Andijon by bloody means -- how he killed peaceful demonstrators," Bekcan said.

Kazakh youth groups held two anti-Karimov protests outside the Uzbek Embassy in Almaty today. In one, some 30 people presented several dozen paper birds to embassy officials to symbolize solidarity with those who lost their lives in Andijon.

Ghalym Aqeleuov, who handed a petition of protest to Uzbek Embassy officials, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service the protesters condemned the recent events.

"We, Kazakhstanis, also condemn these events [in Uzbekistan] and express our sympathy to all Uzbekistanis about what is going on there. This is not a political action. We just want to express our position by holding a minute of silence," Aqeleuov said.

Another participant, Mikhail Sizov, said the protesters were against Tashkent's use of force against civilians. "The demonstration of power by using weapons against a peaceful population doesn't demonstrate the strength of authorities," he said. "It shows the weakness and agony of the authorities in Uzbekistan. We are against such an approach, when weapons are used against a peaceful population. And of course we are against any repeat of such a scenario in Kazakhstan."

A similar protest was held outside the Uzbek Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, yesterday.

Also yesterday, British police arrested 37 demonstrators from the Hizb ut-Tahrir group outside the Uzbek Embassy in London after they splashed fake blood on the walls of the compound. Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Waheed said all 37 were later released without charges.

And up to 50 people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent yesterday to denounce U.S. support for Karimov.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died in Andijon on 13 May in a crackdown by Uzbek troops.

(RFE/RL correspondent Gulnoza Saidazimova and the Uzbek and Kazakh services contributed to this article.)

See also:

What Really Happened On Bloody Friday?

Where Does Crisis Go From Here?

Protesters Charge Officials With Using Extremism Charges To Target Entrepreneurs

Analysis: Economic Concerns Primary In Andijon

Background: Banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Faces Dwindling Appeal, Internal Divisions

Interview: Opposition Leader Tells RFE/RL About 'Farmers' Revolution'

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