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Leading Figure From Uzbek Uprising Reported Dead

Imprisoned Uzbek opposition leader Akram Yuldashev as shown on Uzbek state TV in 2005, the last time he was seen by the public
Imprisoned Uzbek opposition leader Akram Yuldashev as shown on Uzbek state TV in 2005, the last time he was seen by the public

The leader of a group that sparked an uprising a decade ago in Uzbekistan that ended in massacre and colored Tashkent's relations with the West died some five years ago, sources have told RFE/RL.

Akram Yuldashev, who headed an eponymous banned Islamic group known as Akramiya, died in prison in 2010, the Uzbek security-service sources confirmed to RFE/RL on January 11.

One of the sources said Yuldashev died of tuberculosis, although neither source specified the precise time or place of his death.

Yuldashev's relatives have had no contact with him for more than a decade, and have never officially been informed of his fate.

Akramiya leader Yuldashev was arrested in February 1999, following a series of bombings in Tashkent, and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

He would have been about 47 years old in 2010, when the sources suggest he died.

Andijon Uprising

Uzbek government troops opened fire on demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijon in May 2005 seeking the release of jailed Akramiya members following an armed uprising and mass jailbreak.

The roots of the Andijon violence remain disputed -- with the government pointing the finger at an alleged Islamist plot and others blaming trigger-happy officials who feared a Kyrgyz-style "colored" revolution or even a local feud -- but Western condemnation of the government crackdown followed, including sanctions by the European Union.

Calls for an international investigation into the incident were dismissed by Tashkent.

A follower of Yuldashev living abroad who asked not to be named told RFE/RL his communications with him ended in 2005, several months after the Andijon uprising.

Yuldashev testified during the 2005 trial for gunmen charged with leading the Andijon uprising. He appeared in the courtroom via video from his prison cell, as the judge in the trial said Yuldashev was suffering from tuberculosis and could not testify in person.

Many of the details remain a mystery, but some facts have been established around the Andijon violence.

On May 13, 2005, a large group of armed men overran a police station near Andijon and then took control of a prison, setting some 2,000 inmates free.

The group and many of the inmates then went to Andijon, where a few thousand people were protesting the arrest of 23 businessmen reportedly affiliated with Akramiya.

Shooting broke out in Andijon, and tens of thousands of people flooded the streets as the armed men took control of the city.

The gunmen held negotiations with Uzbek officials in Tashkent and demanded that the 23 businessmen be released, among other demands.

But Uzbek troops came and retook the city that evening, with eyewitnesses saying that hundreds of people died at the hands of Uzbek forces.

Uzbek officials say 187 people died in the uprising, about one-third of them police and other officials. Other sources put the death toll much higher.

In Yuldashev's prerecorded court testimony, he claimed responsibility for the events in Andijon, saying he had issued a fatwa calling for a jihad to be carried out against the city.

He appeared emaciated in the video. His relatives and followers say he was forced to admit his guilt.

Yuldashev has not been seen since the trial.

Uzbek authorities have been accused by former prisoners and rights groups of routinely torturing detainees.

Akramiya was seen as a splinter group of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It was centered around a group of businessmen in Andijon and had an intricate infrastructure and a social-benefit system.

Written by Pete Baumgartner based on reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service director Alisher Sidikov and Shukhrat Babajanov

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