27 March 2002, Volume 3, Number 13
IN FOCUSBELARUSIAN POLITICAL PRISONER FREED. Andrey Klimau, a maverick parliamentarian who had once called for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's impeachment, was released from political imprisonment on 25 March after serving four years of a 6-year sentence. Finally his ordeal came to an end, after repeated disappointments by his family and colleagues when his case failed to be cleared with others amnestied, and after a month-long delay while the Central Court in Minsk reviewed a prison commission recommendation. Stopping on his way home at a press conference conveyed at the headquarters of the United Civic Party (UCP), Klimau raised a glass of champagne to thank opposition leaders, journalists, and other concerned people who had worked for his freedom, reported charter97.org on 25 March.
At one time, together with other deputies, Klimau headed a parliamentary commission to review allegations of President Lukashenka's violations of the constitution, hoping to remove the autocratic leader. Those involved later suffered beatings, arrest, and even abduction and disappearance. Just three months after Lukashenka forcibly disbanded the 13th Supreme Soviet, as the legislature was known, Klimau was arrested in February 1998 on charges of unlawful entrepreneurial activities -- an accusation which escalated after a year's investigation to forgery and grand larceny of state property. His lawyers maintained that he had not committed a crime, and that the dispute between Klimau's construction firm and Minsk city authorities could have been resolved in an economic court. Amnesty International declared Klimau a "prisoner of conscience," arrested for politically motivated reasons, and human rights and opposition activists repeatedly called for his release, sometimes winding up in jail themselves after staging pickets. Fifty opposition members demonstrated outside his jail in February on the fourth anniversary of his arrest. The Council of Europe established the unconditional release of Klimov as one of the terms for normalizing relations between Belarus and the West. Anatol Lyabedzka, UCP chairman, cautioned any over-optimistic reading of the resolution of Klimau's case, noting in an interview to RFE/RL's Belarusian Service that the release "was not to Alyaksandr Lukashenka's personal credit, but just the functioning of a legal mechanism," since the problem of political repression in Belarus remained. In fact, Klimau's sentence has been commuted from imprisonment to "corrective labor," which he can serve at a job in Minsk while residing at home (See "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 2002). On court orders, his wages will be garnished to compensate the state, and he could be sent back to a labor colony if he violates parole.
"Although I hadn't wished it, my experiences have already made me an active player in the political arena," Klimau told reporters. "I have no choice but to make use of all this and prove myself. Time will tell how it turns out." Klimau said he would spend time getting reacquainted with his family and would continue working with Lyabedzka and the United Civic Party, of which he had been a member. Prison had changed his perspective on a number of issues, Klimau commented. "I forgave some of my close friends and colleagues for forgetting me. If the government doesn't know what to do, what can I expect from ordinary members of society. Our troubles are not only from Lukashenka's rule, but because we ourselves want to live like this. Anyone who expresses disagreement with the government has to realize that he is dealing with a serious opponent. We have to fight for the electorate," Klimau said. CAF
AZERBAIJANDEMONSTRATORS, POLICE CLASH IN BAKU. Police in Baku detained 21 opposition party activists in the run-up last week to an unsanctioned demonstration planned for 23 March by the 26 parties aligned in the United Opposition Movement, Turan reported. Despite those arrests, the unauthorized protest took place as planned on Fizuli Square, the venue selected by the organizers, rather that at the alternative venue proposed by the municipal authorities. Some 1,500 -2,000 people attended the rally at which speakers called for the resignation of President Heidar Aliyev and new democratic elections. Police cordoned off the square and clashed with demonstrators, detaining 35 of them and injuring 20, reported Reuters on 23 March. Fifteen police officers were also said to be injured in the clashes. ("Azerbaijan: Police, Demonstrators Clash In Baku," rferl.org, 23 March; "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
BELARUSPOLICE ARREST 59 DEMONSTRATORS ON FREEDOM DAY. According to official statements, police officers arrested 59 persons participating in an unauthorized rally in Minsk to observe Freedom Day, which is traditionally organized by the Belarusian opposition to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the non-Bolshevik Belarusian Democratic Republic on 25 March 1918, Belapan reported. Riot police cordoned Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk where some 1,500 demonstrators gathered to lay flowers at the monument to national poet Yakub Kolas. Some 500 people took part in a similar rally in Hrodna, where police detained 22 participants. Fifteen persons were held overnight in Minsk, including Charter-97 coordinator Zmitser Bondarenka, whose trial was postponed to 2 April. Viktar Dashkevich, 22, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and Youth Front leader Paval Sevyarynets was sentenced to 15 days for allegedly violating demonstration regulations. Meanwhile, Social Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich was released after serving 10 days in jail for organizing a protest on 15 March, Constitution Day. Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka called the police actions "unjustified" in dealing with a peaceful demonstration, and said the crackdown was evidence of official unwillingness to create an "atmosphere of trust" in defiance of the OSCE's recommendations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March; charter97.org, 26 March)
LUKASHENKA SOUR OVER OSCE. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka unambiguously suggested that he sees no further task for the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus. "What does the OSCE want from us? Why are they pulling out a similar group from the Baltic states [Pribaltika] -- where human rights are being really violated, where [the Balts] jeer at Russian people, at our citizens, at Slavs in general -- while leaving a group in Belarus to regulate something? This is a direct interference in [our] internal affairs. If we behaved like that in the U.S. or, let's say, in Germany or France, we would have been thrown out of there long ago," Belarusian Television quoted Lukashenka as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
BOSNIAFIRST HAGUE INDICTEE PLEADS 'NOT GUILTY.' The first person indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia pleaded innocent to all charges on 18 March, some five years after being detained in connection with suspected war crimes, AP reported. Bosnian Serb Dragan Nikolic, 44, is believed to have run the Susica prison and has been accused of the rape, torture, and murder of Bosnian Muslim detainees during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Nikolic faces allegations of personal involvement and senior responsibility for daily beatings and sexual assaults, the agency said. He was initially charged with 80 counts of war crimes, though many of those counts have been merged to speed up proceedings. Nikolic has argued that he was detained under illegal circumstances, claiming he was kidnapped. It is still unclear when his trial will begin, AP said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
POLICE RAID ISLAMIC CHARITY IN TERRORISM CRACKDOWN. Law enforcement agents searched the offices and homes of employees of the Benevolentia International Foundation in Sarajevo and the central Bosnian town of Zenica on 19 March as part of an ongoing investigation of groups with possible links to terrorism, AP reported. Citing a police statement, the agency said documents belonging to the group were seized and staff interrogated in a UN-monitored operation that targeted offices and six homes. Authorities have said considerable amounts of cash were being withdrawn from Benevolentia accounts with no record of how they were used. On a recent visit to Bosnia, Benevolentia's U.S. operations head Enaam Mahmoud Arnaout removed all of the charity's records, police said. "The leading employees of this organization were questioned and the found documentation was temporarily seized," the police statement said, according to AP. Officials last week said funds were missing from Benevolentia and two other Islamic aid organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
BULGARIATORTURE, EXCESSIVE FORCE, INSTITUTIONAL CONDITIONS REMAIN 'SERIOUS PROBLEM.' In its annual "Report on Human Rights in Bulgaria" for 2001, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee found mistreatment and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, as well as poor conditions in detention and disabled care facilities, as in previous years. "Torture, ill treatment, and excessive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials continued to be a serious problem," said the committee, with at least 10 deaths in detention discovered, prompting concern about the excessive use of force and firearms by police officers and private bodyguards. The committee said 50 percent of people detained at police stations and then transferred to prison facilities complain about torture and ill treatment. "Conditions in some state institutions for mentally disabled persons, as well as in detention facilities for defendants and foreigners, are inhuman and degrading," said the report. Gaining access to right to a fair trial remained an "acute problem" last year, without any amelioration in the law. The committee said that "thousands of indigent criminal defendants went without lawyers at all stages of the court proceedings," serving prolonged periods in pre-trial detention. Media freedom did not improve last year, the committee found, and the government continued to exercise control over electronic media, which prompted mass protests and retaliation against journalists. The report also noted that racial and ethnic discrimination continued to be a "serious problem," mainly for Roma, who suffered discrimination and "several successful ethnic cleansings," which further isolated the Roma community. The text of the reports is at http://www.bghelsinki.org/en/annual/2001.htm. (Bulgarian Human Rights Committee, March 2002)
POLICE SENT TO TURKISH BORDER TO PREVENT KURDISH PROTESTS. The Interior Ministry has deployed police reinforcement units to the southern Bulgarian town of Svilengrad in order to prevent Kurdish demonstrators from staging protests at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint, "Dnevnik" reported on 19 March. Most of the protestors are citizens of Western European countries who are participants in a convoy originating from Brussels and heading to Turkey to demand greater rights for the Kurdish minority in that country. News.bg reported on 19 March that the Interior Ministry prohibited the convoy from entering Bulgaria, stranding them at the border. Members of the Kurdish community in Sofia are expected to stage protests in the city's Southern Park on 20 March, but it remains unclear whether participants of the convoy will be allowed to join them. Romanian authorities stopped the convoy at the Hungarian-Romanian border on 18 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 March)
TRADE UNIONS STAGE PROTESTS IN SOFIA. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNSB) staged a protest march in Sofia on 22 March, BTA reported. According to KNSB sources, some 15,000 doctors, teachers, miners, and railway and communications workers took to the streets of the Bulgarian capital. The police estimated the number of participants at 4,000-5,000. About 120 members of the taxi drivers union joined the demonstrations with their cabs. The protesters demanded among other things that a minimum monthly salary of 120 leva ($54) be established by 1 October 2002. In his speech, KNSB Deputy Chairman Ivan Kolakov addressed the government, saying, "Stop closing down mines, hospitals, schools, and enterprises!" Should the government fail to meet the trade unions' demands for a dialogue over social issues, the protests will continue, Kolakov warned. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
COAL MINERS STAGE PROTESTS. Some 12,000 coal miners staged nationwide protests on 20 March, BTA reported. The one-hour warning strikes in the mines of Pernik, Tvurditsa, Troyanovo, and Dimitrovgrad were organized by the KNSB. The miners demanded higher wages and a political decision in favor of the domestic mining industry. Pencho Tokmakchiev, chairman of the miners' trade union within the KNSB, said the protests are the result of rising social tension and the ongoing liquidation of the mining industry, which will result in the loss of some 10,000 jobs. According to Tokmakchiev, the workers are severely underpaid and are denied social benefits. The KNSB also announced a large protest meeting in Sofia to be held on 22 March under the motto "For a New Economic and Social Policy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
CZECH REPUBLICCOX, CZECH POLITICIANS DISAGREE, DESPITE AGREEMENT ON BENES DECREES. European Parliament Chairman Pat Cox and Czech President Vaclav Havel agreed after talks in Prague on 21 March that "more goodwill and less populism" would be helpful for the current discussion on the Benes Decrees, CTK reported. Although Cox, Premier Milos Zeman, and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Vaclav Klaus said after three-way talks that the decrees should not "burden future relations in Europe," they obviously interpreted that statement differently. Cox told journalists that European politicians now have an opportunity to "close bad chapters" in the history of the last century and "open all doors to a good future." Zeman warned against "opening the questions of the past" and against "tearing the decrees out of their context, which would serve forces seeking to rewrite history." Klaus said the past "cannot be forgotten" and "cannot be changed" and that "our task is to make sure that it is never repeated." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
COMMISSION ON JEWISH PROPERTY COMPENSATION ENDS WORK. A government commission set up to compensate losses suffered by Czech victims of the Holocaust concluded its work on 20 March, AP reported on 22 March, citing Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky. The commission was set up in 1998 and was tasked with searching for lost works of art and with preparing legislation to allow for the restitution of confiscated property. That legislation was approved in 2000 and made possible the restitution of property confiscated from Jews between September 1938 and May 1945. The previous law allowed only for the restitution of property confiscated by the communist regime. Rychetsky deemed the commission's work "a success" and said that some 7,000 paintings and other works of art that belonged to Jews had been discovered in galleries and castles. Some of these were returned to their original owners and the rest was handed over to Jewish organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
GEORGIADISPLACED PERSONS RESIST EVICTION FROM TBILISI INSTITUTE. Some 150 displaced persons from Abkhazia set fire to a library containing rare books while resisting a police attempt to evict them on 21 March from the Botanical Institute in Tbilisi that they occupied several days earlier, Caucasus Press and AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER CLAIMS ARMENIAN POPULATION DOES NOT FAVOR AUTONOMY FOR DJAVAKHETI. Following her visit on 16-17 March to Georgia's predominantly Armenian-populated southern region of Samtskhe-Djavakheti, parliament speaker Nino Burdjanadze said that most of the region's Armenian population do not want autonomous status for the region within Georgia, according to Armenian agencies cited by Groong on 18 March. But Mediamax also reported on 18 March that Virk, an organization representing the local Armenians, is demanding that a referendum be held to determine how many local residents support the demand for autonomy. Burdjanadze said the local population does, however, want the Georgian authorities to alleviate high unemployment and therefore opposes the closure of the Russian military base in Akhalkalaki, the largest single employer. Burdjanadze admitted that a comprehensive Georgian-language instruction program is needed for the region as most Armenians there do not speak Georgian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
SERVICEMEN DESERT, THEN RETURN TO UNIT. Forty-one servicemen from Georgia's elite 11th Brigade who deserted their unit returned to their barracks late on 21 March, Caucasus Press reported. The servicemen reportedly explained their action in terms of the "unbearable conditions" in which they serve, while officers told the new agency that the men "are simply not used to the tough conditions in the army." The 11th Brigade is one of four crack divisions that will be trained by U.S. military instructors. "Akhali taoba" on 5 March quoted the office of the Georgian ombudsman as saying that over 1,000 servicemen are currently absent without leave. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
HUNGARYAMBASSADOR TO U.S. REACTS TO 'WASHINGTON POST' ARTICLE... In a letter to the editor printed in "The Washington Post" on 20 March, Geza Jeszenszky, Hungary's ambassador to the United States, writes that columnist Jackson Diehl's use of the term "Lebensraum" (living space) with its Nazi associations to describe Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policy was inflammatory and misleading . Jeszenszky said the Hungarian government is building a "cooperative relationship" with all of the country's neighbors and supports efforts of Hungarians outside of Hungary to maintain their national identity. He also wrote that the U.S. State Department has distanced itself from Diehl's article and that Orban has a good working relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
...AND DENIES ANTI-SEMITISM IN HUNGARY. Jeszenszky also rejected as "completely false" Diehl's reference to a tacit alliance between FIDESZ and anti-Semites. In his letter, Jeszenszky quotes Prime Minister Orban as saying that FIDESZ and the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party are "incompatible on fundamental policy goals" and also quotes FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni as saying that his party will not form a government with "radicals of the left or right." Regarding anti-Semitism in Hungary, Jeszenszky says Hungary has the third-largest Jewish population in Europe and that violence against members of the Jewish community is almost nonexistent. He pointed out that the Orban government has instituted an annual day of remembrance in honor of the more than half million Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March).
KYRGYZSTANPARLIAMENT DEPUTY FREED, ORDERED TO REMAIN IN CAPITAL... Following two days of violence between police and protesters in Djalalabad Oblast, Kyrgyz authorities released parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov from detention in Toktogul on 19 March and escorted him to the village of Kerben, the scene of the previous day's clashes, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Beknazarov told RFE/RL in Toktogul that the charges against him have not been dropped and that he has pledged not to leave Kyrgyzstan. He also confirmed that he was beaten while in custody, but was pressured to deny this in a statement on Kyrgyz State Television. The charges and trial against him were unlawful, Beknazarov reiterated, since his superiors had approved his decision in 1995 to close a manslaughter investigation. That decision constitutes dereliction of duty, prosecutors claimed, demanding a seven-year sentence on 13 March. Following police killing of six demonstrators, presiding judge Bolot Mombekov announced on 18 March that the trial was suspended indefinitely. Nevertheless, on 21 March Interior Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev ordered Beknazarov to remain in Bishkek, where he has his official residence, and not to return to Djalalabad for a period of more than two days, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19, 20, and 22 March)
...REJECTS PRESIDENT'S VERSION OF UNREST. In a 22 March speech to the Legislative Assembly (the lower chamber of Kyrgyzstan's parliament), Beknazarov accused President Askar Akaev of deliberately misrepresenting the facts by claiming the previous day that the clashes on 17-18 March in Djalalabad Oblast were provoked by "a small group of provocateurs and demagogues," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Beknazarov laid the entire blame for the death of six demonstrators on the Kyrgyz authorities. He told RFE/RL the same day that members of the government commission formed to investigate the circumstances of the clashes between police and demonstrators are trying to falsify the facts. Also on 22 March, parliament deputy Adaham Madumarov argued that the interior minister, prosecutor-general, and national security service director should resign in order to facilitate an objective investigation into the clashes. The following day, First Deputy Prosecutor-General Kurmantai Abdiev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that the Security Council will form a special group to investigate the killings. He said the Interior Ministry should not participate in the investigation because of its direct role in the shootings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
PRESIDENT FIRES LOCAL OFFICIAL. On 18 March, President Akaev fired Shermamat Osmonov, district administrator in the village of Aksu where demonstrations continued on 18 March to demand Beknazarov's release. State Secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov on 18 March repeated official allegations that police opened fire in self-defense after demonstrators pelted them with stones. But eyewitnesses told RFE/RL the same day that the demonstrators did not resort to any aggression against the police, who opened fire without warning. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS POLICE CANNOT AFFORD TEAR GAS. Interior Minister Temirbek AkmatAliyev told the Legislative Assembly on 18 March that the police had no alternative but to open fire on the demonstrators using live ammunition because the ministry cannot afford either rubber bullets or tear gas for use in crowd control, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. A former finance minister, AkmatAliyev was named to his present post two months ago. When asked by Ismail Isakov, chairman of the parliament committee on security, what law empowers the police to open fire on the population using live ammunition, AkmatAliyev was unable to give an answer. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
LATVIAEU RECOGNIZES RIGHT TO DECIDE STATE LANGUAGE. The EU presidency issued a statement on 21 March declaring that Latvia alone has the right to determine its state language, LETA reported. The previous day, OSCE official Gerard Stoudmann created an outrage in Latvia by suggesting that Russian should also be granted the status of a state language. Prime Minister Andris Berzins called the suggestion irresponsible, and even urged Stoudmann to resign. The statement stated: "There is no expectation whatsoever on the part of the EU that Latvia should change or amend the provision that establishes that the Latvian language is the state language of Latvia." In addition, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Rolf Ekeus said the EU does not expect Latvia to change or supplement legal norms that stipulate Latvian as the state language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
MOLDOVASENIOR PPCD LEADER DISAPPEARS IN CHISINAU... Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov disappeared in Chisinau on the night of 21-22 March, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Cubreacov was last seen by his driver, who dropped him off in the vicinity of his home, but he never reached his domicile and was declared missing by his wife the next day. A special police group has been tasked with investigating his disappearance. PPCD leader Iurie Rosca said on 23 March that Cubreacov's disappearance is part and parcel of the "settling of accounts" orchestrated by "antinational, antidemocratic, and anti-European circles" against the PPCD. In a separate statement on 24 March, the PPCD leadership said an attempt is under way to "neutralize Cubreacov by means characteristic of the most ferocious dictatorships in the world; namely, his physical liquidation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
...BEFORE PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION DISCUSSES LIFTING HIS IMMUNITY. The Judicial and Parliamentary Commission of the parliament on 22 March again postponed debate on the request of Prosecutor-General Vasile Rusu's request that the parliamentary immunity of Cubreacov, Rosca, and PPCD parliamentary group leader Stefan Secareanu be lifted, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The commission considered that Rusu still has to clarify some of the reasons for his request, which would allow for the investigation of the three PPCD leaders while under arrest. Observers do not rule out that Cubreacov's disappearance may be linked to that request, since, as a European Parliament deputy, Cubreacov can only be investigated while under arrest if the European Parliament were to also heed the prosecutor's demand. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
PRESIDENT REACTS TO CUBREACOV'S DISAPPEARANCE. In a statement released on 24 March, Vladimir Voronin said Cubreacov's disappearance is an "infringement of democratic norms" and an "open and cynical provocation aimed at destabilizing the social and political situation" in Moldova, Romanian radio reported. He said he has ordered an immediate "mobilization of efforts for the operative investigation" of the circumstances of the disappearance and "to ensure the security of Cubreacov and of his family. Voronin said he wants Interpol to be involved in the investigation and added that he has appealed to the PPCD leadership to cooperate in the investigation. Some 2,000 people gathered on 24 March in front of the presidential residence, protesting against the PPCD leader's disappearance. They later marched on the main boulevard in Chisinau, chanting anticommunist slogans. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
POLANDCABINET ADOPTS LABOR CODE CHANGES DESPITE TRADE UNION PROTESTS. The government has adopted amendments to the Labor Code in a bid to encourage entrepreneurship and fight the 18 percent unemployment rate, Polish media reported on 19 March. The proposed changes make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers, lower overtime costs, and cut administrative red tape. Despite prolonged consultations, the government failed to gain the trade unions' approval for the amendments. Labor Minister Jerzy Hauser said the package of 30 legislative changes, which need to be approved by the parliament, should take effect as of 1 January 2003. "In changing the Labor Code, we are adapting it to the patterns that are in force in countries with fast economic growth," Premier Leszek Miller said in a televised address to the nation the same day. "Exceptional situations require exceptional measures. And the situation on the labor market is undoubtedly an exceptionally difficult one," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
ROMANIAPREMIER SAYS RESPONSIBILITY FOR HOLOCAUST MUST BE OFFICIALLY ASSUMED... Adrian Nastase said on 18 March that "history must be known and [responsibility for its course must be] assumed," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In a message to participants in the first syllabus on the Holocaust in Romania that started at the National Defense College the same day, Nastase said that "the future cannot be built on falsification and mystification," and that the 1941 pogroms in Iasi and in Bessarabia and Bukovina, as well as the mass deportations of Jews resulting in "tens of thousands of victims" are "in no way different from...the Nazi operation known under the name of 'The Final Solution.'" The course on the Holocaust is taught to senior officers by United States Holocaust Memorial Museum official Radu Ioanid, who told the forum that 250,000 Jews perished in the Romanian Holocaust and that Romania "cannot enter NATO with [Marshal Ion] Antonescu on its banners." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
...BUT OPPOSES 'COLLECTIVE GUILT.' Then on 23 March, Premier Nastase said he is opposed to the "attempts to generalize guilt for the [Romanian] Holocaust to the Romanian people as a whole," Romanian radio reported. Nastase said responsibility for the atrocities committed during the Romanian Holocaust is confined to Romania's leaders and governments of that era. History, Nastase said, has registered "situations whose gravity was far more extensive" than those in Romania, and "nobody thought of accusing the German, Russian, American, or any other people of that." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
SOCCER CLUB PROTESTS RACIST ATTACK. The chairman of a club of supporters of the Bucharest Rapid soccer team, Andrei Teodor, on 18 March told Mediafax that during the game between Rapid and Dinamo Bucharest on 17 March, fans of the rival club carried Antonescu's portrait and shouted "Run off! Antonescu comes after you!" Many Rapid fans are known to belong to the Roma minority, some 25,000 of which perished during the Romanian Holocaust. The head of the Dinamo Bucharest fan club was fined 1.5 million lei (about $50, which is an average monthly salary) on 20 March for failing to stop fans from unveiling a huge racist banner at the game, Reuters reported. A police colonel told the agency that the head of the club is "responsible for what his men did during the match." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 21 March)
RUSSIALOCAL LEGISLATORS, ACTIVIST ATTACKED IN CONNECTION WITH FILM SHOWING. Aleksandr Kostarev, a member of the political council of Liberal Russia and one of the organizers for the local showing of the film "Assault on Russia," was severely beaten in Perm on 20 March, RFE/RL's Perm correspondent reported. Three unknown men attacked him in the hallway of his apartment building with a metal rod. Kostarev sustained a concussion and is hospitalized. "Assault on Russia" was the film financed by embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, now seeking political asylum in Great Britain, to prove the Federal Security Service's (FSB) role in the bombing of four apartment buildings in Russia in the fall of 1999. Another Liberal Russia member, State Duma deputy Yulii Rybakov told reporters in Moscow that unidentified men beat up three of his employees, AP reported on 20 March. In St. Petersburg, the director of the city's branch of the human rights group Memorial, Veniamin Iofe, was attacked on the afternoon of 18 March following the showing of the film there, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. Iofe was struck on the back of the head after exiting the building where the film was being shown. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
SUPREME COURT REJECTS SUTYAGIN APPEAL. The Russian Supreme Court on 20 March rejected an appeal by researcher Igor Sutyagin that espionage charges pending against him be dropped, Western and Russian news agencies reported the same day. The court refused to overturn a lower-court ruling made in December authorizing prosecutors to hold Sutyagin indefinitely while they build their case against him. Sutyagin, a scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, was arrested in October 1999 on charges of passing secret information on Russia's combat readiness to the United States. He maintains that all his reports were based on publicly available information. His attorney, Boris Kuznetsov, said he will file a protest to the chairman of the Supreme Court and that Sutyagin also intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
NEW FEDERATION MINISTER NIXES REOPENING PASSPORT AND NATIONALITY DEBATE. Vladimir Zorin, the federal cabinet minister who oversees questions of nationalities policy, told Interfax on 18 March that he does not support Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov's suggestions that Russian passports include an entry for the bearer's ethnicity. "This question has already been widely discussed by the public, including in the State Duma, when the new passports were introduced," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
KRASNODAR OFFICIALS ROLL OUT THE UNWELCOME MAT FOR REFUGEES. At a recent meeting on migration policy in Krasnodar Krai, more than 400 heads of cities and raions, law enforcement officials, and migration service workers, including krai Governor Aleksandr Tkachev, came up with a number of suggestions on how to reduce the number of migrants in the krai, "Izvestiya" reported on 19 March. Tkachev suggested that the fine for persons caught without registration be increased to 6,000 rubles ($192). "This will encourage illegal migrants to leave the krai's territory," Tkachev explained. Other proposals included creating "filtration points" through the raion-level Interior Ministry departments that would deport migrants after three days; organizing monthly charter flights from Krasnodar to Tashkent to ship out Meskhetian Turks; and conducting negotiations with Armenian President Robert Kocharian on the subject of repatriating Armenians for "the preservation of friendly relations with the republics in the Caucasus." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
FEDERAL TROOPS LAUNCH NEW SEARCH OPERATION IN CHECHNYA. Federal troops detained at least 120 people during searches on 22-23 March in Grozny and smaller towns or villages in Shali, Vedeno, Gudermes, and Nozhai-Yurt raions, according to AP and Interfax on 23 March. Between 20-23 March, unidentified assailants killed three Chechen village administrators, including Akhmad Bokov from Nozhai-Yurt, who was gunned down together with his bride the day after their wedding. Earlier RFE/RL's Russian Service, citing chechenpress.com, reported on 19 March that Serzhen Yurt in Shali Raion, southeast of Grozny, had been cordoned off by Russian armored vehicles as federal soldiers hunted for Chechen fighters. Some 100 residents were detained, of whom 60 were subsequently released after having been severely beaten. A further 23 were being held at the Shali police department, while 17 more have disappeared without a trace, according to RFE/RL. Speaking in Copenhagen on 19 March, Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov said the situation in Chechnya has deteriorated since the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S., AP reported. "This conflict is only getting worse. We see no way of how to end it," Akhmadov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 25 March)
PACE SPOKESMAN NOTES 'GAP' BETWEEN COMPLAINTS AND PROSECUTIONS IN CHECHNYA. In a live interview with Ekho Moskvy on 22 March, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) spokesman on Chechnya Lord Judd said, "A huge gap remains between the number of complaints about human rights violations and the number of criminal proceedings into such cases and prosecution of people found guilty of criminal offenses." He said that there was also a gap "between the number of criminal proceedings started and the number of cases that actually reach courts". Lord Judd called this "an area that needs to be worked on," saying "in April our friends in the Duma intend to provide PACE with a complete list of all criminal cases initiated and the progress in the investigation of each such case." CAF
LOOMING SHAKEUP IN THE RESEARCH SECTOR. Ineffective research institutions may face closure, even as state funding to those remaining is expected to increase five-fold by 2010, an official told reporters on 20 March. Vladislav Sherstyuk, first deputy secretary of the Security Council, said 60 research institutions currently receive budgetary funding, and that the number of researchers decreased by 50 percent over the last 10 years as a result of the brain drain. Some 200,000 researchers have emigrated abroad, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
ULYANOVSK APPEALS TO PUTIN FOR HEAT, ELECTRICITY. NTV reported on 18 March that more than 100,000 people in Ulyanovsk Oblast have been living without heat and hot water for almost a week, and Ulyanovsk Mayor Pavel Romanenko has sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin asking that "measures be taken to protect Ulyanovsk residents." Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov visited Ulyanovsk last month in part to deal with the region's continuing energy problems (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 27 February 2002). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
MORTALITY RATE EXCEEDS BIRTH RATE, TRAUMAS CITED AS LEADING CAUSE. Summing up activities for 2001, Health Minister Yuri Shevchenko said among Russia's greatest health problems is the high mortality rate, now 1.7 times the birth rate, reported utro.ru on 21 March. The average Russian life span is 65, down from 70 in 1988. More than 2 million people are dying per year, many of them of working age. A major reason for early deaths is trauma, reported Shevchenko, saying the number of injuries and poisoning in Russia were among the highest in the world, with 200 trauma incidents per 100,000 persons, contrasted with less than 30 for England, for example. According to Health Ministry statistics, 60 million Russians smoke, more than 30 million abuse alcohol, and 2 million take illegal drugs regularly. Such bad habits are the main reasons for poor health, along with overeating and poor nutrition, Shevchenko believes. The number of HIV-infected people, mainly in the age group 18-25, reached 85,000 in 2001. On the plus side, Shevchenko noted that people were falling ill less with certain types of infectious diseases, including gonorrhea and dysentery; maternal mortality was 10 percent less than the previous year; and serious children's illnesses were also waning. The government spent 70 percent more on health care in 2001 by comparison to 2000, and paid many back wages to health care workers, although the Health Ministry still complains of a large budget shortfall given the population's needs, said the minister. CAF
NIZHNII RESIDENTS DON'T WANT HAPPY MEALS. The antiglobalist group "ATTAK -- Nizhnii Novgorod" conducted a protest on 15 March in front of the local McDonald's restaurant in Nizhnii Novgorod, VolgaInform reported on 20 March. The protestors carried signs saying "McDonald's -- Out of Nizhnii Novgorod." One organizer told the agency that "McDonald's spends more than 1.8 billion annually on advertising, but the smiling Ronald McDonald hides the reality that McDonald's is interested only in money, making profits on everything from everyone -- as are all transnational corporations." Organizers also maintained that the restaurant chain is using ingredients that have been genetically modified in all "non-European countries, including Russia, which lacks a system of control for such products." The previous day, protestors in Voronezh gathered in a central square to oppose the construction of the first McDonald's in that city. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
SLOVAKIAPREMIER SAYS BENES DECREES DISPUTE SHOULD NOT 'PLAY INTO NATIONALIST HANDS'... Mikulas Dzurinda told members of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission in Brussels on 19 March that the Benes Decrees "have been fading away" and "do not provide any basis for the new legal realities," CTK reported. He said the issue has been turned into an electoral one in Hungary, Germany, and Austria, and warned that "we must be cautious lest we play into the hands of nationalists." Dzurinda told the commission's members that "the path to the past is not the path to the EU." ("RFE/RL Newsline, 20 March)
...AND REITERATES OPPOSITION TO HUNGARIAN STATUS LAW. Dzurinda also said that the Hungarian Status Law has provisions implying "extraterritoriality" and is "discriminatory." He said the law is "unacceptable" in Bratislava. The Slovak premier said organizations claiming to represent ethnic Hungarians have already set up 11 offices issuing Hungarian ID cards, which he said is "at variance with Slovak legislation." He denied that Slovakia's law on relations with ethnic Slovaks living abroad is in any way similar to the Status Law, and expressed the hope that the dispute with Budapest will be settled after next month's Hungarian elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March).
JEWISH COMMUNITIES SAY HOLOCAUST DENIAL IS ON THE RISE. In a statement released on 19 March, the Central Association of Jewish Communities in Slovakia said denial of the Holocaust is becoming increasingly common in the country, CTK reported. The statement was released ahead of 25 March, which marks the day of the first deportation of Slovak Jews to Nazi extermination camps. Some 70,000 Slovak Jews were deported to the camps, the majority of whom perished. The statement said, "the Holocaust has a strange continuation" in Slovakia, with growing numbers denying it "despite a large number of witnesses, archives, ...documentaries, newspaper articles, and mass graves." It said Holocaust denial is part of the struggle of negationists for "controlling the past in order to master the future." The murdered Jews "cannot be killed again, [but] the last thing that can still be taken from them is the forgotten shadow of their existence," the report stated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
UKRAINEPRESIDENT CONDEMNS U.S. RESOLUTION ON ELECTION. President Leonid Kuchma has termed as "unprecedented" the 20 March resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives urging the government of Ukraine to ensure a democratic, transparent, and fair parliamentary election on 31 March, Interfax reported on 22 March. "Are we a nation, or are we a football playing field for strategic partners?" Kuchma asked indignantly. The U.S. resolution was also slammed as a "populist" move and "gross interference" in Ukraine's domestic affairs by Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko. "The U.S. has not proven in any region that it wanted democratic elections to be conducted there. It cynically interfered in the Yugoslav election; it tried to interfere in the election in neighboring Belarus," Interfax quoted Symonenko as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR SAYS MOSCOW WORRIED ABOUT OUR UKRAINE BLOC. Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin said on 20 March that Russia is with those parties and election blocs in Ukraine that call for the development and deepening of relations between the two countries, ITAR-TASS reported. Chernomyrdin noted that there are also forces in Ukraine that do not pursue such a goal, adding that "this cannot but worry us." According to him, Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine is a cause for such concern. "Yushchenko himself says that he favors broad democracy and supports President Leonid Kuchma. But when we look at the structure of [his] bloc, we see who is in it and what statements they make, and this is beginning to worry us," Chernomyrdin said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
OUR UKRAINE CAMPAIGNER REPORTEDLY BEATEN BY POLICE. Citing the press service of the Ukrainian Popular Rukh, UNIAN reported on 18 March that Oleksandra Kravchenko, a campaign activist of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine election bloc, was harshly beaten by two policemen in Sumy (northern Ukraine) on 12 March. According to the press service, she was attacked by members of the Velyko-Pysarivskyy District police department in Sumy Oblast: Oleksandr Polyakin, the deputy head of the department, and Serhiy Korniyenko. Kravchenko has appealed to the Prosecutor's Office for protection. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
DECISION ON UKRAINIAN SS DIVISION VETERANS SPARKS MORE PROTESTS. Leaders of Ukraine's Jewish community have asked the Supreme Court to cancel the decision by the Ivano-Frankivsk City Council to give the status of World War II veterans to former members of the SS Halychyna Division, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 March, quoting All-Ukraine Jewish Congress President Vadym Rabynovych. "This is an outrageous decision and a crime against the Ukrainian and Jewish people," Rabynovych said. He recalled that the Nuremberg Tribunal outlawed the SS, adding that the ruling is an inseparable part of the modern system of international legal relations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March).
YUGOSLAVIASERBS BITTER ON THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF NATO AIR WAR... While some 7,000 Serbs commemorated the third anniversary of the beginning of NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia with sadness and anger, ethnic Albanians in Kosova celebrated the memory, AP reported. The Serbs gathered in central Belgrade carried signs and chanted "NATO are Murderers." The 78-day NATO air campaign was undertaken to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's security forces out of Kosova, where they had forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee to neighboring Albania and Macedonia. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said at a church service that "it is impossible to abolish from responsibility the Yugoslav authorities -- which could, and should, have avoided the conflict with [NATO]...but it must not be forgotten who was pulling the trigger from the safe distance of 30,000 feet above ground." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
...WHILE ALBANIAN KOSOVARS REMEMBER IT FONDLY. Kosova's president, Ibrahim Rugova, said the first day of bombing was "a big and historical day...when Kosova's freedom began, a new dawning for Kosova." He called it a "holy night, when Kosova's sky was lit by the light of hope and renewal." Some 3,000 Serbs are estimated to have died because of the bombing, including civilians, while some 10,000 ethnic Albanians are thought to have been killed by Yugoslav forces. A report issued by the London-based group Landmine Action on 25 March said that unexploded ordinance from NATO's bombing campaign has since killed 58 people and injured another 97. It said unexploded ordinance is a far greater danger to citizens after a conflict than land mines, and called for a ban on the use and sale of cluster bombs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)
SERBIA TRANSFERS KOSOVAR ALBANIAN PRISONERS TO UN. The Serbian government agreed on 22 March to transfer 165 ethnic Albanian prisoners to prisons in Kosova administered by the UN, AP reported. The move is considered a key part of Belgrade's cooperation in satisfying the U.S. government if Yugoslavia wants to continue receiving aid from Washington. Mojca Sivert, who works in Belgrade for the Humanitarian Law Fund, said the transfer "will help [us] all deal with the past." The prisoners are the last of a group of some 2,015 who were taken from Kosova by Yugoslav forces as they retreated from the Serbian province in 1999. Of the prisoners that will be transferred, 82 have been convicted of armed mutiny and treason, while the rest have been found guilty mostly of theft and smuggling. Sivert added that UN officials in Kosova are likely to annul some of the convictions because some of those found guilty "did not have fair trials." The Serbian government said it hopes the UN will transfer several dozen Serbs imprisoned in Kosova to Belgrade. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March)
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYS YUGOSLAVIA CONTINUES TO OBSTRUCT THE HAGUE. Colin Powell said after talks with UN war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte that Yugoslavia continues to obstruct the efforts of The Hague court, Reuters reported. Powell noted a "lack of progress" but said the U.S. will "redouble our efforts to get the kind of cooperation we need with respect to access to archival material, with respect to turning over other officials, with respect to putting in place domestic internal law, ...and other issues." The Bush administration has set 31 March as the deadline to decide if Belgrade should get some $40 million in aid from Washington as a reward for cooperating with The Hague tribunal according to conditions set by Congress. If Belgrade officials fail to meet the conditions then the money would be withheld, as could support for Yugoslavia's requests for loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
OTPOR CALLS ON YUGOSLAV, SERBIAN LEADERS TO STOP EQUIVOCATING ON COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE. Ivan Marovic, a member of the Serbian student movement Otpor (Resistance), called on Yugoslav President Kostunica to make it clear to the Serbian people "whether we will conceal or extradite people," Tanjug reported on 19 March. Marovic said, "We have heard President Kostunica make contradictory statements about cooperation with The Hague tribunal," explaining further that some officials say that former Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are not in Serbia. Furthermore, he said that "it would be risky to arrest them." Marovic also urged Kostunica to explain why he views relations between Belgrade and Washington as "delicate." Marovic asked if relations are also delicate "with the EU, Council of Europe," or other countries that demand Belgrade's cooperation with The Hague tribunal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
END NOTEFORMER UZBEK POLITICAL PRISONERS CONCERNED ABOUT NEXT GENERATION
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Asked what made them become involved in human rights, a group of three Uzbeks involved in reform in Uzbekistan and a Russian Central Asian researcher recently visiting New York all chorused one word together, "Karimov!" Known for his harsh rule and condoning of torture of large numbers of political prisoners, Uzbek President Islam Karimov seems to have served as the primary motivation for the growth of a small but persistent human rights movement in the last 12 years. The recent legalization of one group, the Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, after a long struggle has sparked optimism among Western observers, but Uzbek activists cautioned that what had been given by government discretion as a concession on the eve of Karimov's U.S. visit could be taken away. To see if change would really take root, they awaited registration for other groups, given the long history of discouraging civil society through banning political parties, NGOs, and unauthorized religious groups since independence in 1991.
Atanazar Arifov, a former political prisoner, is the general secretary of the Erk (Freedom) Party, banned in 1992, its leader, Muhammad Salih, forced to flee into exile. Arifov recently founded the Mazlum Human Rights Society and has applied for legal status. Arifov was the author of his party's draft laws for Uzbekistan's Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which were submitted to parliament in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Asked what drew him to civic activism, Arifov reflected on his first interrogation in December 1992, when prosecutors asked him the same question. A physicist by profession, Arifov says he moved naturally from the precise study of "open, complex, self-developing systems" in nature to studying the same type of complex systems in politics. A career in the hard sciences tempered him to logical thinking and experimentation and made him less susceptible to ideology.
Like others of his generation, Arifov came to his own activism as the child of a father who was persecuted by the Soviet system. Only 16 when he was sentenced to execution in 1929 for nationalist activity, his father then had his sentence commuted to 10 years by Stalin, was eventually exiled to Kazakhstan, and then fled home to Uzbekistan on foot, eventually raising a family of seven. Asked what priority he had for his civic work today, Arifov spoke of the need to help the voiceless be heard and to get answers for their appeals. He mentioned a group of four mothers of young sons facing the death penalty, who had appealed to U.S. President George W. Bush to intervene with President Karimov, but who had not received any response from the U.S. Embassy to date.
Abdusalom Ergashev is the head of the Ferghana branch of the recently registered Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. Since the early 1990s, Ergashev has been an independent researcher on Muslim affairs in the Ferghana Valley. He also grew up in the large family of a rural teacher who was executed by Stalin in 1932. He particularly recalled the influence of his grandmother, revered by her entire village, who was bold enough to tell him what had really happened when "the Reds" came and the region was purged of "Kulaks." When he began school, Ergashev was struck by the clash between history as it had been experienced and taught by his own family, and the official version purveyed in Soviet schools. His persistent questioning led to his first arrest in 1969. For Ergashev today, working in the impoverished area of Ferghana, a priority is ensuring that new Western interest in the region and the influx of aid dollars would not lead to a further entrenchment of despotism and corruption. He stressed the importance for donors of working with independent NGOs and installing their own effective monitoring systems.
Pulat Akhunov is an active member of the Birlik Party, a nationalist and secular party renouncing violence, which was founded in 1988 to seek secession from the Soviet Union. Akhunov has lived in exile in Sweden since his release in 1995 from an Uzbek prison where he spent three years on politically motivated charges. Currently, he is the director of the Central Asian Association, publishing "Harakat," a monthly magazine. Akhunov recalls his life as a teacher working with young people in the heady days of perestroika, when he and his colleagues first encountered the idea that teachers could be friends to students rather than dictators. Accompanying students on forced expeditions to pick cotton, they questioned why they had to abandon their studies. His involvement in informal movements eventually led him to be nominated from the Komsomol to the Supreme Soviet, the legislature of the era, and to participate in the reformist Interregional Group of Deputies in 1989. It seemed natural for him to move from reform of the schools to reform of the entire Soviet system, and, he noted cheerfully, even more natural that such activity would eventually land him in prison. Akhunov also spoke of a family history overshadowed by repression, with a grandfather sent to the Gulag in 1937 in Tomsk for illegally teaching the Koran.
Vitaly Ponomaryov is the director of the Central Asian Program at the Memorial Human Rights Center. In addition to compiling the most comprehensive list of political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, Ponomaryov has written several books and articles on the region. He cited Western radio broadcasting, including Radio Liberty, among his early influences. He vividly recalled the experience of receiving a badly worn Xeroxed copy of Robert Conquest's "The Great Terror" translated into Russian as his first exposure to samizdat and an alternative analysis of Soviet history. Ponomaryov was also involved in the informal movements of the late 1980s in the perestroika era, working with Boris Kagarlitsky in the Moscow Popular Front before becoming active in Memorial Society's Central Asian work. He remembered being deported once by riot police from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan before making his way home to Moscow, and remarked that in that era, Uzbekistan was actually considered more liberal than Kazakhstan.
Indeed, all the visitors were unanimous in their assessment that the Soviet perestroika era of the late 1980s was far more free and tolerant of debate than today's Uzbekistan, where dissent is harshly discouraged particularly by the example of rampant torture in the prisons. The recent prosecution of four policemen for the death of an inmate, along with another case where evidently police were punished for a death in detention, could be explained by a fresh awareness -- under Western pressure -- that such lethal practices had to be abated to avoid discrediting the regime. But the activists cautioned that the cases were not publicized in the media, so it was hard to access its educational and preventative effect.
The government's banning of parties and NGOs had deprived young people in Uzbekistan of a natural outlet for inquiry and civic involvement, the activists noted, and had led them to see what they deemed "utopian" ideals in extremist Islamist movements. In the bleakness of life in Uzbekistan, "they are looking for salvation in religion," Akhunov explained, lacking any legitimized outlets for other types of civic life. Without the liberalizing influences of de-Stalinization and perestroika, felt from family and colleagues who shared the values of universal human rights and peaceful activity, the next generation of youth activists could be in jeopardy. Society seemed more closed to outside influence, and the West's uncritical alliance with Karimov's regime for the objective of fighting terrorism could lesson the credibility and attraction of Western liberal democracy.
The visitors discounted reports that recruiters in groups like the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic political party or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, included in the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, paid cash to attract followers. "Young people join because they are true believers," the visitors said, "and because no successive alternative has been created or permitted." Arifov recalled a time decades ago, when only four people in a Communist Party meeting of 400 could be found to defend him. With such a long history of oppression and intimidation of those who tried to protect others, it would not be easy to gain more adherents to human rights and other civic movements in Uzbekistan, but he expressed hope that the legalization of one NGO would soon lead to legitimacy for others and an end to domestic press silence about their work.