The events of the first New Year's month in Uzbekistan were marked by the beginning of loud trials against human rights defenders and political activists.
On January 30, a criminal hearing of a criminal case against a human rights activist from the Fergana Valley, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, began. The prosecutor’s office imposes 17 articles of the criminal code, including defamation, extortion, tax evasion. The human rights activist was arrested on October 7 last year on the eve of her departure for the international human rights conference in Dublin.
International human rights organizations, in particular Human Rights Watch, suggest that Tadjibayeva’s case is politically motivated and associated with well-known Andijan events. The trial was closed to observers, the police blocked the leading roads and surrounded the courthouse.
The Uzbek authorities are also strenuously hiding the fate of another Andijan human rights activist Saidjahon Zainubutdinov, who was arrested more than 8 months ago. According to some data, his trial was hastily held in early January, but today neither his relatives nor international observers could find an eyewitness to the court hearing. As an eyewitness to the Andijan events, Zainabitdinov distributed newsletters and gave numerous interviews, for which he is accused of spreading false information and creating panic among the population. The Uzbek authorities claim that his bulletins "were aimed at sowing panic among the population" and denigrating the international image of Uzbekistan.
Human rights activists say that the Andijan events in general had a great negative effect on the entire already poorly functioning judicial system of the country. Specialist. the services, calling the Andijan uprising purely by terrorists, established full control not only during the preliminary investigation, but also controlled the judicial processes. “Under such conditions, the authorities could not waste resources on carrying out all these closed trials on Andijan detainees,” one of the representatives of the international organization commented.
Other lawsuits against major entrepreneurs and political activists Sanzhar Umarov and Nadira Hidoyatova, on the contrary, were as open as possible to observers.
Sanzhar Umarov heads the oppositional Coalition of National Unity "Sunny Uzbekistan" and was arrested on October 23 last year after returning from the United States, where he has a residence permit. According to the lawyer, he found Umarov three days later in the basement cell of the Central Department of Internal Affairs of Tashkent. Umarov was without clothes, randomly rushed about, covered his face with his hands and did not react to the appeal of a lawyer.
The prosecutor's office accuses Umarov of economic crimes and concealing a huge amount of taxes, although his relatives claim that he does not have a business in Uzbekistan. “The maximum that he could do here is to be the founder of any campaign,” Nadira Khidoyatova said in an interview. Umarov’s comrades believe that the case is politically motivated, since shortly before his arrest he addressed an open letter to the deputies of the Parliament of Uzbekistan calling for a political dialogue to begin. Sanjar Umarov also appealed to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was on a visit to Tashkent. At the court hearing, which began on February 3, local and international observers were admitted.
Tashkent City Court is hearing a criminal case against another activist of the "Solar Coalition", entrepreneur Nadira Khidoyatova. She was detained on December 19 last year at the airport on her return from Moscow. As stated in a press release by the General Prosecutor’s Office, Khidoyatova is suspected of almost all possible economic crimes, including embezzlement, hiding foreign currency, tax evasion, and more.
Shortly before her arrest, Khidoyatova stayed in Russia, where she held a press conference at the Komsomolskaya Pravda publishing house and spoke in defense of the arrested Sanzhar Umarov. According to Khidoyatova, she arrived in Moscow with an appeal to the Russian public and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to provide reliable information about what is happening in Uzbekistan.
At trial, it became known that in 1999 Khidoyatova headed one of the enterprises of the Creative Association “Uzbekteatr” - Buyuk Siymolar. On the basis of a presidential decree, these enterprises were exempt from paying taxes. The funds accumulated as a result of tax exemption should have been used to support and develop theatrical art in the republic.
During the court hearing, the prosecutor's office presented acts of inspections of tax inspectors, which states that under the guise of tax benefits Hidoyatova did not pay taxes, neither to the Uzbekteatr association, nor to the state budget. Thus, the tax authorities have calculated that during their management, the Buyuk Siymolar enterprise in total underpaid taxes in the amount of about $ 160.
Domestic observers doubt that the newly formed opposition group posed any danger to the ruling regime. Sanjar Umarov and his “Coalition” are practically unknown to the main population of the republic, besides, he lives in America most of the time.
Lawsuits are not reflected in any way in the local media, which continue to affirm to the impoverished population that everything is calm in Uzbekistan.