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Uzbeks Say Officials Targeting Relatives Of Andijon Witnesses With Torture, Killings

Hundreds of Andijon refugees, like these women in Germany, have settled in Western Europe.
The leader of a group established by Uzbek refugees to focus attention on the 2005 Andijon massacre has accused Uzbek officials of the systematic use of detention, torture, and killing in an effort to silence witnesses of the bloodshed four years ago.

The leader of the group Andijon -- Justice and Resurrection, Nurillo Maqsudov, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that four of his relatives died in Uzbek jails last year. He said their bodies showed clear signs of torture when they were returned for burial.

Maqsudov was speaking in connection with a gathering in Dusseldorf, Germany, on May 13 to honor victims of the crackdown on the fourth anniversary of troops' firing on demonstrators.

Members of Maqsudov's group live in various Western countries, where they fled in the wake of the unrest.

They claim that Uzbek authorities vowed to release all their jailed relatives after the December 2007 presidential election that saw Islam Karimov maintain his longstanding grip on power if they would "keep their mouths shut."

Instead, refugees like Shamsiddin Atamatov, 33, say their relatives have been treated even more harshly.

He and other members of the group say that since Karimov and his government failed to keep their promise to release relatives in exchange of their silence, they now are ready to speak out about what happened in Andijon.

They also expressed their willingness to cooperate with independent international investigators if necessary.

The United Nations, United States, and European Union have all called unsuccessfully for officials in Tashkent to allow an international probe into the incident, in which eyewitnesses and rights group say hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were gunned down in central Andijon, in eastern Uzbekistan.

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