Uzbekistan’s courts are holding closed trials against people accused of organizing mass riots in Andijan, for which 73 people were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
On 28 December, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan sentenced nine Andijan police officers and two prison doctors. Heads of the Andijan Department of Internal Affairs and officers of the patrol and inspection service received from 1.5 to 3 years for negligence, abuse of power and official authority. Two medical officers received 8 and 11 years for accepting a bribe and exceeding official authority. Doctors accused Akram Yuldashev of convicts, the head of the so-called religious extremist movement Akromia, on which he allegedly led the terrorist attacks in Andijan, were handed over a mobile phone.
Despite the fact that the trials related to the Andijan events were declared closed, the national television showed footage of confessions of convicts. One of the main perpetrators of the bloody events in Andijan has been called Interior Minister Zokir Almatov. After refusing to investigate the excessive use of force, the European Union prohibited the issuance of entry visas to twelve officials involved in the suppression of the Andijan insurgency. However, in spite of the sanctions, Almatov managed to obtain a German visa as a private person for receiving medical treatment in the oncological clinic of Germany. Meanwhile, on December 12, several Uzbek citizens, with the assistance of the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch, filed a lawsuit with the federal prosecutor to institute criminal proceedings against Almatov on three counts: separate incidents of torture; torture as a crime against humanity and the Andijan shooting as a crime against humanity. On December 22, Zokir Almatov left his post, apparently for health reasons, before receiving his resignation having received the Order For Great Services to the Motherland from the President. He has headed the Ministry of the Interior since 1991. As one of the most influential persons in the government, Almatov played a major role in the struggle of President Karimov against dissent. The former minister urgently left Germany after reports appeared in the media that the victims of torture and those who had survived the execution of the rally in Andijan, appealed to the German prosecutor to open a criminal case against Almatov.
In this connection, the Human Rights Watch Organization stated that: “The German prosecutor should institute proceedings on responsibility for crimes against humanity against the Minister of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan Zakirjon Almatov, even if he left the country. It is possible that the prosecutor may have enough reasons to raise the issue of issuing an international arrest warrant for Almatov. ”
Human rights activists insist on a criminal investigation and say that German domestic law allows the court to consider especially flagrant crimes, regardless of the place of commission and the nationality of the accused and victims. Foro UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Theo Van Boven supported human rights defenders and made a statement. “Being under treatment in Germany, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan gives victims of arbitrariness in Uzbekistan a historic chance to obtain justice for the grave crimes of torture and massacres that criminalize Minister Almatov,” it says. However, President Islam Karimov enlisted the political support of Russia and China, thereby making it clear that he did not intend to change the methods of struggle against religious extremism. And although Zokir Almatova’s resignation followed the transfer of criminal materials to the German prosecutor, analysts say that the departure of the former minister is hardly linked to pressure from the West.
The appointed new Minister of the Interior, Bakhodir Matlyubov, has been the Chairman of the State Customs Committee since 2001, before that he was the First Deputy Minister of the Interior of Uzbekistan.