June 5, 2006, Volume 6, Number 17
WEEK AT A GLANCE (May 22-28). Kazakh oil reached China through the 962-kilometer pipeline linking the two countries, marking the first direct pipeline import of Kazakh oil to China. The $700 million pipeline will eventually transport 20 million tons of oil a year. Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's ambassador to Kazakhstan, told reporters in Almaty that Iran "is ready" to become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan), although he said he does not know "when they will admit us." Mehmanparast also said that Iran believes that the five Caspian littoral states must reach an agreement on the Caspian Sea's legal status before any oil and gas pipelines can be built across the seabed. His comments came amid possible pipeline projects to transport Kazakh oil and gas across the Caspian. And on the domestic front, the registered opposition party Naghyz Ak Zhol (True Bright Path) and the unregistered party Alga (Onward) both issued statements calling on the Kazakh authorities to officially register the latter party, which was recently denied registration after the Justice Ministry queried its claim to have the minimum 50,000 members required.
An opposition rally in Bishkek drew some 10,000 people, with participants giving Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Feliks Kulov until September to implement a 10-point reform program passed as a resolution during the demonstration. The key demand is a new draft constitution. Police arrested Nurlan Motuev, the so-called "coal king" who seized the Kara-Keche coal mine after the fall of President Askar Akaev in 2005 and has held it for over a year. He faces charges of unlawful property seizure and tax evasion. President Bakiev removed Myrzakan Subanov as head of Kyrgyzstan's Border Service and appointed Colonel Zakir Tilenov as the new chief, with some seeing a link between Bakiev's decision and a recent incursion by armed men from Tajikistan on May 12. Finally, Jantoro Satybaldiev was presented as the newly appointed governor of Osh province and President Bakiev's new representative to southern Kyrgyzstan. Satybaldiev, a parliamentary deputy and a member of the opposition movement For Reforms, replaced Adam Zakirov, whom Bakiev had appointed in December 2005.
Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, where the two coordinated a new program for Russia to assist in the training and equipping of Tajik border forces. Heads of state from the member states in the CIS met in Dushanbe, where Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov said that integration is lacking among CIS countries. For his part, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze said that CIS membership has not helped Georgia with the peaceful settlement of conflicts, free movement of Georgian citizens, or economic relations. A court in Tajikistan's Sughd province sentenced six residents of Tajikistan and one resident of Russia to prison terms ranging from nine to 19 years for extremist activities committed as members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. And U.S.-based power company AES signed a protocol with the Tajik government for a feasibility study on the construction of electrical transmission lines linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan. AES President Paul Hanrahan said that implementation could begin in 2006, with $1 billion in investments planned for the first stage of the project.
In a ceremony in Ashgabat, Turkmen authorities destroyed 1,768 kilograms of drugs confiscated between October and May 1, 2006. The haul consisted of 143 kilograms of heroin and 1,625 kilograms of opium.
Uzbekistan's National Drug Control Center said that nearly 25 percent of the drugs produced in Afghanistan pass through Central Asia on their way to world markets. The center put the annual total of traffic through Central Asia from Afghanistan at 150 metric tons of heroin and 30 tons of opium, or 24 percent of Afghanistan's overall production, with some 75 percent of the heroin and opium proceeding to Russia and Europe and the rest remaining in the region. Nodira Hidoyatova, a businesswoman and the coordinator of the Uzbek opposition movement Sunshine Coalition, was released from jail with a seven-year suspended prison sentence for financial crimes after Hidoyatova's relatives and friends compensated the state for 36 million soms ($29,500) and $40,000 in damages. Hidoyatova originally received a 10-year sentence in March for economic crimes. Meanwhile, Ilhom Zaynobiddinov, the son of jailed Uzbek rights activist Saidjahon Zaynobiddinov, was arrested on charges of counterfeiting money and other documents.
THE FATE OF THE MULTIVECTOR MODEL IN CENTRAL ASIA. Since gaining their independence, Central Asian states have sought to maneuver among the major powers with "multivector" foreign policies. The premier example is Kazakhstan, which has skillfully maintained solid ties with Russia and the United States while extracting concessions from both. Now Uzbekistan is pursuing a different model, turning its back on the West and throwing its lot in with Russia and, to a lesser extent, China. Could this mark the beginning of the end for the multivector era in Central Asia?
Kazakhstan's recent dialogue on energy issues with the United States and Russia neatly illustrates how the multivector game is played. When U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Kazakhstan on May 5, "The New York Times" reported that the top item on his agenda was the promotion of new oil and gas pipelines across the Caspian Sea to link Kazakhstan to export routes bypassing Russia. While Cheney's visit produced no concrete agreements, it underscored the possibility that trans-Caspian pipelines could provide an alternative to current export routes that move the bulk of Kazakhstan's energy resources to world markets through Russia.
Only two weeks later, on the eve of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's May 20 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Kazakh Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev downplayed the chances of a trans-Caspian pipeline. Speaking on April 19, Toqaev stated that any pipeline across the Caspian would require an agreement among all five littoral states, a remote possibility at present. As Vladimir Socor noted in the Jamestown Foundation's "Eurasia Monitor" on May 24, Toqaev's remarks scaled back Kazakhstan's 2005 position that, as Socor put it, "Caspian countries have the sovereign right to lay pipelines and cables in their own sectors of the Caspian seabed."
When Nazarbaev and Putin met, the Kazakh president obtained favorable tariffs for Kazakh rail shipments through Russia and Russia's consent in principle to a new pricing formula for Russian purchases of Kazakh gas. Russia's "Kommersant" framed the concessions as quid pro quo, with Putin granting the tariffs and price hike in exchange for Nazarbaev's agreeing to allow increased Russian involvement in gas production projects inside Kazakhstan.
But in an extended analysis of the Kazakh-Russian gas negotiations, "Ekspert Kazakhstan" suggested on May 29 that the new pricing agreement was the result of skillful multivector maneuvering in which the "idea of creating a trans-Caspian gas pipeline (despite the relative complexity of implementing such a project) played its PR role." With domestic gas production falling off in Russia and Russia looking to secure imports to meet its export obligations, the magazine argued that "[W]e (always bringing up our desire to supply hydrocarbons independently to Europe and the Asian-Pacific region) got a chance to change the rules of the game on the oil and gas market with attention to our own national interests."
How much more Kazakhstan will get for its gas remains to be seen, however. Kazakhstan currently supplies Russia's Orenburg refinery each year with 8 billion cubic meters of gas at $47 per 1,000 cubic meters and 3.5 million tons of gas condensate at $15 per metric ton, "Ekspert Kazakhstan" reported. Analysts queried by the magazine said that the new price of gas at the Kazakh-Russian border would be $100-$140 per 1,000 cubic meters, roughly half of what Western Europe pays, but at least double what Kazakhstan gets today. But "Vremya novostei" reported on May 29 that while Nazarbaev claimed that the new price agreement with Russia would bring Kazakhstan an additional "several hundred million dollars," talks on a base price are still ongoing, with Russian negotiators fighting hard to keep the price as close as possible to $60 per 1,000 cubic meters.
The View From Tashkent
Uzbekistan is playing a somewhat different game. After the Uzbek government's suppression of unrest in Andijon in May 2005, the country's relations with the West deteriorated significantly, and Uzbekistan has subsequently restructured its foreign policy around new friends -- primarily Russia, but also China, South Korea, India, and Pakistan.
Multivector maneuvering has not been prominent in Uzbekistan's revamped foreign policy. In fact, the close alliance between Moscow and Tashkent, based on billion-dollar Russian investments promised to Uzbekistan's energy sector and a treaty that provides for mutual military assistance in the event of "aggression" against either Russia or Uzbekistan, would seem to leave Uzbekistan little room to maneuver.
Competition between Russia and China for access to Central Asia's natural-gas reserves may soon reveal just how much, or how little, room Uzbekistan has left for "multivectoring." Russia's state-controlled Gazprom, which handles lucrative exports to the West, plans to import increasing amounts of gas from Central Asia in 2007-10 to make up for declining yields at aging fields in Russia. Most of that gas will come from Turkmenistan, and with uncertainty rampant over Turkmen production capacity and reserves, Gazprom can be expected to make every effort to ensure that it is the priority purchaser of all Turkmen gas for export. Gazprom can also be expected to treat additional Turkmen export commitments as a potential threat.
One of those commitments is a planned pipeline linking Turkmenistan and China. The two countries inked a framework agreement on the pipeline during Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to China in April. With a tentative completion date of 2009 and a projected throughput capacity of 30 billion cubic meters a year, the pipeline could undercut Gazprom's plans to boost imports from Turkmenistan, which would have to increase production substantially -- a dubious bet -- over the next few years to cover all of its promised commitments.
Just Passing Through?
If China and Russia lock horns over Turkmen gas, the battleground could be Uzbekistan, which plays a crucial role as a transit country, both for current Russian imports from Turkmenistan and for the planned Turkmenistan-China pipeline. And the contest may already be under way. Even as Vice President Cheney was in Kazakhstan in early May, a Russian delegation was in Tashkent for talks of its own. The subject of those talks, the "Financial Times" reported on May 18, was "to ensure that Uzbekistan would not let its territory be transit route for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China."
When the Chinese-Turkmen framework agreement on a pipeline emerged, expert reaction was skeptical for a host of reasons, among them Turkmenistan's unknown reserves and production capacity, the cost, the vast distances, the geopolitical vagaries, and the Turkmen president's ever-expanding eccentricity. Any of these could sink the project. Nevertheless, early indications are that China and Turkmenistan are following through. NewsCentralAsia, a news agency with close ties to Turkmen officialdom, reported on May 26 that a Chinese delegation recently visited Turkmenistan to assess joint projects to extract natural gas from fields on the right bank of the Amudarya river, which are supposed to feed the proposed pipeline. And UPI reported the same day that a Turkmen delegation headed by Deputy Oil and Gas Minister Ishanguly Nuriev will visit China for what a Turkmen Foreign Ministry statement described as "efforts...aimed at implementing a general agreement on annual supply of 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas to China during the next 30 years."
Should Chinese and Russian energy interests clash in Uzbekistan, we may soon learn whether Uzbekistan's decision to ally itself with Russia in the wake of Andijon has left it any real room for multi-vector maneuvering. And the test case will have broader implications. With Russia intent on establishing itself as an "energy superpower," the soft Central Asian underbelly of the natural-gas colossus assumes ever greater significance, both as a new focal point of Russian foreign policy and a site of competing energy interests. For the nations in the region, the extent of their ability to use multivector policies for leverage may well determine how much, or how little, they benefit from the resources they possess and the outside world so covets. (By Daniel Kimmage. Originally published on June 2.)
SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION MULLS EXPANSION. Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised the growing international stature of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- but it may also soon become more controversial, as its members consider whether to welcome Iran into the fold.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told a gathering of parliamentary leaders from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on May 30 that their meeting in Moscow was "a landmark event."
It was certainly a first in the group's 10-year history. In the past, SCO meetings have brought together only the leaders of the organization's six members -- Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The hope is that national parliaments could play a vital role in giving the SCO a new boost.
Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the Russian State Duma, argued that, as heads of national parliaments, the delegates could "play a more active role in providing legislative support for tasks such as strengthening the collective security system in Central Asia, increasing the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, implementing large-scale trade and economic cooperation programs."
More Influential, But Also Larger?
This was as an occasion made significant by the presence of ordinary parliamentarians, and by a declaration by the six members' parliaments to cooperate. There was, though, one president in attendance -- Russia's Vladimir Putin. Putin noted "with satisfaction" that the international community is showing "greater interest" in the SCO.
"We also see attempts to create some sort of competition with our organization in the international arena," he said, in an apparent reference to growing U.S. influence in the region. Putin said, though, that he believes "it would be right if we did not engage in any competition but instead continue positive, constructive work."
Putin's words echoed remarks by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who earlier on May 30 had told reporters in Beijing that the SCO had matured and grown in influence. But should the SCO also expand its influence by expanding as an organization?
That is on the cards. Two weeks ago, Iran said it would like to become a full member. Like India, Mongolia, and Pakistan, Iran currently has observer status.
Including Iran would be controversial, particularly at a time of heightened tension caused by Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear program. Some believe it would come too early for early for the SCO's own good. At the May 30 meeting, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan both said the organization should first focus on cementing ties between its current member states.
Nurtai Abykaev, the head of the Kazakh Senate, also called for "a temporary moratorium on accepting new observer countries."
To Admit Or Not To Admit Iran?
The SCO's secretary-general, China's Zhang Deguan, on May 29 pointed out the obstacles to expansion, stressing that the organization's charter does not provide for the inclusion of new members.
However, Yevgeny Volk, the director of the Heritage Foundation think tank in Moscow, has no doubt that both Russia and China are eager to expand the SCO, which is increasingly seen as a counterbalance to U.S. influence in the strategically located region. Iran may, though, be too divisive a candidate, he believes.
"By letting Iran enter the SCO, Russia and China would clearly demonstrate that they side with Iran and its nuclear program and would embark on a collision course with the West," Volk says. "I think that right now such a turn of events does not suit Russia and China. They are interested in maintaining contacts with the West, the United States, and the European Union."
The position of Moscow and Beijing may become clearer soon. In a little over two weeks, on June 15, the presidents of SCO member states gather in Shanghai for a special summit to mark the fifth anniversary of the transformation of the Shanghai Five into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization following its expansion to include Uzbekistan. (By Claire Bigg. Originally published on May 30.)
'FIFTH' UZBEK ANDIJON DETAINEE TALKS TO RFE/RL FROM PRISON. Fayoz Tojikhalilov is an Uzbek citizen who fled to Kyrgyzstan in the wake of the May 2005 military crackdown in Andijon. Like a few of his countrymen, he was later arrested by Kyrgyz authorities and jailed. He now awaits either trial in Kyrgyzstan or possible extradition to Tashkent, where he is wanted in connection with the bloody events in Andijon. Tojikhalilov talked to RFE/RL by phone from his place of detention in Osh.
On May 13, 2005, Uzbek security forces violently cracked down on protesters demanding that 23 businessmen who were on trial in the eastern city of Andijon be granted fair hearings. The businessmen were prominent in Islamic charitable work and rights activists say they believe the government fabricated the charges in order to confiscate their assets.
Uzbek authorities claim the Andijon operation was ordered after what they describe as foreign-funded, armed Islamic insurgents took city officials and law enforcement officers hostage and executed them. They also say the unrest claimed 187 lives that included protesters and security officers.
Rights groups both inside and outside Uzbekistan, however, say the civilian death toll was in the hundreds. They also accuse Uzbek security forces of killing a number of defenseless people after the Andijon protests were quelled.
The Uzbek government has rejected international calls for an independent probe into the Andijon events. It has also issued arrest warrants against a number of fugitives it says are responsible for the unrest. Among them are a four Andijon residents whom Kyrgyz authorities detained in June 2005.
Although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recognized Zhakhongir Maksudov, Odilzhon Rakhimov, Yaqub Toshboev, and Rasulzhon Pirmatov as asylum seekers, Kyrgyz judges have denied them refugee status.
The four are awaiting trial in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh, where they have been kept since their arrest. The London-based Amnesty International rights watchdog says they are in danger of being forcibly extradited to Uzbekistan, where they could possibly face torture and other ill-treatment.
Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that another Uzbek national was being held prisoner in Osh and that he, too, was wanted in Tashkent in connection with the Andijon unrest. He was arrested in September in Osh, where he had been living since fleeing Andijon.
A Fifth Appears
As it turned out, Fayoz Tojikhalilov -- who describes himself as the "fifth" Andijon refugee -- is sharing a prison cell with his four countrymen. Uzbek officials say he was involved in the killing of a prosecutor and want him returned.
Tojikhalilov is a relative of one of the 23 businessmen, whose trial triggered the unrest in Andijon. This, he says, is what prompted him to leave the city after the security forces had reasserted control over Andijon.
"I was working during those days. Even two days after the May 13 events, I was still working. I owned a company, I had employees. I was a wealthy man. Even on May 13, I had some business to attend to. After May 13, it became clear that the [authorities] would bring accusations against me because I was a relative of [one of the defendants.] Even if I had 50, 100, or 1,000 witnesses to testify [that I did not take part in the unrest], they would not have believed me."
Tojikhalilov says that after the Andijon unrest Uzbek authorities tried a number of his relatives and sentenced them to up to 15 years in jail. Although he admits he was among those protesters who picketed the Andijon court to demand a fair trial for the 23 defendants, he denies he or any of his four countrymen were involved in the unrest.
"[The Uzbek authorities] claim that most of us organized the May 13 events," Tojikhalilov said. "They're holding us responsible for what happened there. But this has not been proved. Yes, we went to a demonstration to tell about the problems we had. That was the reason why we went there. We'd never been tried or jailed before."
Fears Of Torture And Death
Tojikhalilov describes his detention conditions in Kyrgyzstan as "good" and says none of the Osh Uzbek detainees can complain of harassment or discrimination.
But he says he and the four other Uzbeks believe they will be executed if returned to Uzbekistan. "If they return us to Uzbekistan, only death awaits us there," he said. "Besides, they won't shoot us upon our arrival. They will torture and torment us before that. There is no other way. May God save us. We try not to think about those things. We try to think only about good things, to be kind to each other. Today we're here and we strive to make each day a beautiful one."
As Tojilkhalilov goes on, his voice chokes with emotion. Then he starts sobbing. "What can I do? It's been a year since I saw any of my family members," he said. "I wish them patience. I hope we'll meet again in brighter days. I can't speak about this without crying. The other day [May 13], a well-known woman from the opposition was released from jail. Her name is [Nodira] Hidoyatova. She said that being in jail gave her an opportunity to test herself. It's the same for us here. We've seen great examples that helped us live with dignity in this world. It's very important for us."
In its annual report of rights violations worldwide, Amnesty International this week said that -- following unfair trials -- 73 people have received jail sentences of up to 22 years in connection with the Andijon unrest.
It also says that "dozens of people" are believed to have been sentenced to death and executed. (By Zamira Eshanova, with Jean-Christophe Peuch. Originally published on May 26.)
UZBEK OPPOSITION ACTIVIST'S RELEASE FROM JAIL A SURPRISE. An Uzbek opposition activist was freed on May 23 after an appeals court suspended her jail term. Nodira Hidoyatova, a coordinator for the Sunshine Uzbekistan coalition, was sentenced in March to 10 years in jail for money laundering and other charges. Human rights groups said the trial was politically motivated. Meanwhile, other opponents of the Uzbek government remain on trial. Independent observers say the Uzbek authorities stepped-up their fight against dissent after the bloodshed in Andijon last year.
Nodira Hidoyatova told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service she is happy to have been released and reunited with her family. "Happiness. Now I know what it means," she said. "Happiness means meeting my loved ones, it means freedom. Happiness is freedom after the horror I experienced. It was psychological horror, not physical. I can't say I was physically threatened, no. But emotionally, it was hard to be away from my relatives, from my loved ones."
The activist's release was most welcomed by her two children. Hidoyatova's 17-year old daughter, Malika, spoke to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. "Our mom returned to us, we haven't seen her for seven months," she said. "Of course we are full of joy."
The 38-year-old opposition activist was released on May 23 when the court commuted her sentence to a seven-year suspended jail term, the first three years of which are probation.
That came as a surprise for Hidoyatova's family. Her sister Nigora, who heads the unregistered Ozod Dehqonlar (Free Peasants) opposition party, told RFE/RL: "I don't know why they made [this decision]," she said. "I want to believe that they thought about it carefully and thoroughly, and finally the reason and principles of humanism prevailed. I think they also took into account that Nodira has young kids."
Charged With Serious Crimes
Hidoyatova was arrested in December upon returning from Moscow, where she had held a news conference calling on Russia to end its support for Uzbek President Islam Karimov and acknowledge human-rights abuses in Uzbekistan.
She was found guilty in March of economic crimes, embezzlement, and tax evasion, among other things. The court found Hidoyatova guilty of committing "serious and especially serious crimes that have damaged the Uzbek state" and ruled that her company, Buyuk Siymolar, must pay $230,000 in back taxes. Hidoyatova said she was innocent of the charges.
The activist's detention and the conduct of her trial caused concern among international rights groups. Maisy Weicherding, an Amnesty International researcher on Uzbekistan, told RFE/RL the group welcomes Hidoyatova's release.
"We welcome the fact that she is no longer in prison," Weicherding said. "Of course, she still has a conditional sentence. So, you know, she could, if she breaks the condition, be sent back to prison."
Independent human-rights groups as well as Hidoyatova's supporters have said the case was politically motivated as Sunshine Uzbekistan has been a vocal critic of the Uzbek government and demanded Karimov's resignation after the government's crackdown on protesters in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon in May 2005.
Surat Ikramov, the head of the Center for Human Rights Initiatives in Tashkent, also welcomed Hidoyatova's release. However, he tells RFE/RL that Hidoyatova should not have been imprisoned at all.
"Charges against her were not proved but the court sentenced her to a lengthy prison term anyway," he said. "There were political reasons: she established a coalition. That coincided with the Andijon events. We first heard of the coalition in April 2005. After the Andijon events, the government increased pressure on opposition and human-rights activists."
In its ruling on May 23, the Tashkent court upheld Hidoyatova's conviction, saying her remaining sentence will be lifted if no new charges are brought against her during probation. She was also required to pay 120 million Uzbek soms ($100,000) of the $230,000 in taxes the court says her business owes. Hidoyatova told RFE/RL that her friends and relatives collected the money and paid for her.
Hidoyatova was asked to pay $50,000 when she was first arrested. But the activist denied breaking any financial regulations and refused to pay.
Others Still Detained, Charged
It is not clear whether the change in Hidoyatova's sentence will affect jailed Sunshine coalition leader Sanjar Umarov. A wealthy businessman, Umarov was detained in October and sentenced in March to 11 years in prison on charges of tax evasion, embezzlement, and money laundering.
The sentence was later reduced to seven years and the judge also ruled that Umarov must pay more than $8 million in fines while banning him from any business activity in Uzbekistan for three years after his release.
Hidoyatova told RFE/RL that Umarov was sent to a prison colony in Bukhara in central Uzbekistan earlier this week. But Ikramov doesn't think he will be released. "It is unlikely that Sanjar Umarov will get the same [verdict] because the amount he has to pay [in back taxes] is huge," he said. "It will be difficult to collect that much money. As we learned, Nodira Hidoyatova's friends and relatives had to collect the money for her."
Ikramov says Uzbek authorities jail their opponents by charging them with economic crimes in order to support an ailing national economy with bail money, back taxes, and the confiscation of property.
Hidoyatova's sister says Nodira will continue a legal battle to prove her innocence. "After her release on suspended terms, she has the possibility to continue to fight in an economic court to prove that she is innocent," she said. "And the economic court will make a decision. This [battle] is before her."
Nodira Hidoyatova is resolute in continuing her public activities. But she says she will do it more "professionally" and "diplomatically."
Meanwhile, other critics of the Uzbek government remain on trial. Mutabar Tojiboeva, a well-known rights activist from Ferghana, was sentenced in March to eight years in prison on more than a dozen of charges. She has appealed.
Two other human-rights activists are soon to be brought before the court on extortion charges. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Alisher Sharipov, said on May 23 that investigators have concluded that Azamjon Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov attempted to blackmail a resident of Jizzakh, in central Uzbekistan. He said the probe is over and the case is going to court.
Farmonov and Karamatov work for the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. They were arrested on April 29, soon after they had published a report on the abuse of farmers' rights in the Jizzakh region. The society denies the accusations brought against its two members, saying they are politically motivated. (By Gulnoza Saidazimova. Originally published on May 24.)