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Defendants Plead Guilty In Andijon Trial

Prisoners in the court in Tashkent 20 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The first 15 defendants to go on trial over the May violence in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon all pleaded guilty today on the opening day of their trial.

Prosecutors read out the 40 charges against the men, three of whom are citizens of neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The charges include terrorism, hostage taking, attempting to overthrow the constitutional government of the country, murder, and organizing illegal religious extremist groups.

The defendants stood and entered guilty pleas to all charges.

Meanwhile, in new reports today, two leading human rights organizations accused Uzbekistan of covering up hundreds of killings in Andijon. The Uzbek government says 187 people were killed in the May violence, most of them terrorists, soldiers, and local officials.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse the Uzbek government of unrelenting persecution of anyone who tries to tell the truth about what happened in Andijon.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Acacia Shields of Human Rights Watch noted that, unlike previous terrorism trials in Uzbekistan, journalists are not being granted access to the courtroom in the current trial.

"Journalists and foreign diplomats, foreign trial monitors, seem to be consigned to a side room and are watching the proceedings on television," Shields said.

Today's trial is the first in a series against organizers and participants in the violence in and around Andijon. More than 100 others are in detention waiting for their cases to come to court.

(compiled from agency and service reports)

For RFE/RL's complete coverage of the mid-May events in Andijon, see: "Aftermath of Andijon", as well as a Andijon timeline

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