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Uzbekistan: Detentions Highlight Ongoing Crackdown In Andijon

Over a month after the violence, the streets of Andijon remain tense Yesterday, Uzbek police detained a group of opposition activists, as well as an RFE/RL correspondent in Andijon, amid a continuing crackdown in the eastern Uzbek city. Correspondent Gofur Yuldoshev said he was conducting interviews in a teahouse with several activists, when police detained the group, taking them to a police station for questioning before releasing them four hours later.

Prague, 27 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Yesterday morning, Isroil Holdorov and Sadirohun Sufiev, of the banned Erk Democratic Party, were being interviewed by RFE/RL correspondent Gofur Yuldoshev in the Caravan teahouse in Andijon's Yangibozor bazaar.

Yuldoshev recounts what happened next: "I met Isroil Holdorov of the Erk party in Yangibozor and we went to the Caravan teahouse to have tea. As we walked in, a young police sergeant followed us. He introduced himself as Abdushukur. Then he left the building. Three to five minutes later, eight people entered. Some were in police uniform, others in civilian clothes. They started searching us. I said, 'Hey, I am a correspondent'. They said, 'Don't move, don't move'. They searched my pockets as I was sitting."

Other men were also searched in the teahouse. Yuldoshev says policemen in the teahouse used their radios to call for backup.

After a while, all the men were taken to a police station. Holdorov recalls how events unfolded: "They [policemen] had weapons, they shouted, 'Don't move, don't move, don't move!' They surrounded us and walked us from the Caravan teahouse located inside the bazaar to the main road. I asked them if I could buy cigarettes or matches, they said, 'No, you are not allowed'. By doing that, I wanted to let someone know what was happening to us. On the main road, there was a patrol car and a lot of policemen. They acted as if they had caught a group of criminals."

The detainees were taken to the Interior Ministry's city department. Yuldoshev says they were repeatedly searched and questioned. He says the policemen did not identify themselves.

"As we entered, they searched us again. They took my equipment. I told them it was my recorder. They told to shut up and took my recorder, microphone and everything away. We entered a second room and were searched there again. We were taken to a third room and were searched once more. None of them identified themselves. I asked them: 'Can you identify yourselves?' They asked us lots of questions, filled in many documents, but never identified themselves," Yuldoshev said.
"You know, I have children, so I got scared. Not too much, just little. We fight for justice and we didn't want to be imprisoned based on slander." - Holdorov

Opposition activist Isroil Holdorov says some of his belongings, mostly documents and computer diskettes, were taken away without a proper confiscation protocol. He says that among the confiscated documents were notes from the trial of 23 local businessmen that precipitated the recent deadly clashes in Andijon.

"I participated in the trial of the [alleged] Akramiya members and I had testimonies of all of those I spoke to with me," Holdorov told RFE/RL. "They were unique documents, because they included names and testimonies of the 23 businessmen on the last day of trial, 11 May. Some of them were written testimonies, others told them orally and I wrote everything down. That's what I had."

A trial of the 23 local businessmen accused of belonging to the banned Islamic group called "Akramiya" preceded the clash between government troops and protesters in Andijon on 13 May that killed hundreds of civilians. The businessmen as well as their relatives who organized protests outside the local courthouse for several weeks, denied the charges against them and demanded a fair trial.

Holdorov says he knew the police confiscation of his material was illegal. But he says he felt compelled to stop demanding the return of his diskettes when threatened by the officers who detained him.

"They were shouting at me, pressuring me a lot. They were very harsh toward me. They said: 'We can do anything we want with you. For us, it is enough to have a person. Charging him with a crime is not a problem.' You know, I have children, so I got scared. Not too much, just little. We fight for justice and we didn't want to be imprisoned based on slander," Holdorov said.

An older man who identified himself as Muhammadjon told RFE/RL he was detained together with the opposition activists. Muhammadjon says he is 70 years old. He went to the bazaar to buy medicine for his ailing grandson. On the way, he met several acquaintances at the local teahouse and joined them.

"My grandson had food poisoning. I went to buy manganese crystals for him. I was sitting there [in the teahouse]. They came, asked for our documents, searched us. They detained us and held us for three-four hours. I was sitting with crossed legs, when the deputy head of the police station came in and kicked my legs. He didn't even consider that I am 70 years old. He just said I shouldn't cross my legs," Muhammadjon said.

Muhammadjon heads a local group that works on media freedom.

Human right groups say dozens of people, mostly opposition members and human rights activists, have been detained in Andijon since the massacre last month.

(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report)

See also:

Uzbekistan: Voices From Andijon

Uzbekistan Reveals Findings On Andijon Uprising As Victims Mourned

For more on these events, see RFE/RL's dedicated webpage: Unrest in Uzbekistan