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Swedish Court Finds Uzbek Couple Not Guilty In Shooting Of Cleric

Uzbek Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov is still recovering in a Swedish hospital after an attempt on his life five months ago.
Uzbek Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov is still recovering in a Swedish hospital after an attempt on his life five months ago.
A court in Sweden has found a couple from Uzbekistan not guilty of charges that they helped carry out an assassination attempt on a prominent Uzbek cleric living in exile in the Scandinavian country.

An RFE/RL correspondent quotes the court in the northern town of Ostersund as confirming on July 26 the verdict on the husband and wife.

It was not immediately clear if prosecutors will appeal. Prosecutors have until August 16 to decide.

However, Nazarov's son, Dovudkhon Nazarov, told RFE/RL by phone that Nazarov's relatives will appeal the court's verdict.

"We are planning to complain against this court decision," he said. "There is no doubt that we are not fully satisfied with the decision. And we want to push the case to higher courts."

Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov has been hospitalized since he was shot at least three times in the town of Stromsund in February.

According to the court papers, the defendants did not deny that they assisted the person who allegedly attacked Nazarov.

The papers say the couple helped the suspect locate the cleric, and that they visited Nazarov at a mosque in Stromsund, where Nazarov served as imam.

However, the couple claimed in the trial that they were not aware of any plan to try to kill Nazarov.

The suspect in the shooting is identified in the court papers as "Jukovskiy."

No 'Unreasonable' Behavior

The court documents say no behavior that prosecutors presented against the defendants appears "unreasonable," and that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants had acted with knowledge that an attack on Nazarov was being prepared.

During the trial last week, Swedish prosecutor Krister Petersson suggested that Uzbek secret services may have played a role in the assassination attempt.

Nazarov, who has tens of thousands of followers and admirers, was one of the most popular imams in Central Asia in the early 1990s.

He was seen in some circles as a potential rival to Uzbek President Islam Karimov, a longtime authoritarian ruler whose government has been repeatedly cited by international monitors for rights violations.

Nazarov left Tashkent for Kazakhstan in 1998 after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of religious extremism and terrorism.

United Nations investigators concluded that Nazarov was a victim of political persecution by the Uzbek authorities. In 2006, with UN assistance, Nazarov arrived in Sweden.

From exile, Nazarov became one of the leading supporters of the secular opposition and democratic changes in Uzbekistan.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.

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