Uzbek court jails opposition activist for 10 years

With yet again no effective protest from the international community, another major leader of the Uzbek democratic opposition is packed off to torture camp. Nodira is a personal friend of mine and I am deeply sad.

She is not, doubtless, a personal friend of my replacement. I was sacked for trying to help democracy and stop this kind of thing. Where now is the British Embassy. Where was my successor, David Moran, when this sentence was passed?

Doubtless doing nothing but swanning from cocktail party to golf course with his mouth, eyes and ears closed, as a good diplomat should,

Craig Murray

From the Washington Post

TASHKENT (Reuters) – An Uzbek court sentenced an opposition activist to 10 years in prison on Wednesday on embezzlement and tax evasion charges in a case her supporters say was politically motivated.

Nodira Khidayatova, a leading member of the moderate opposition Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition, was arrested in December after returning from a trip to Moscow where she held a news conference to criticize President Islam Karimov.

“The court rules that Khidayatova be imprisoned for 10 years,” Judge Zokirjon Isayev said. Companies controlled by her must also pay $230,000 in back taxes, he said.

Since a bloody government crackdown in the town of Andizhan last year in May, the authoritarian Central Asian state has held a series of trials resulting in the jailing of more than 180 people accused of involvement in the uprising. The authorities have also arrested members of the opposition, like Khidayatova, who criticized Karimov’s government.

“Her guilt was completely unproven,” Khidayatova’s lawyer Oleg Babenko told reporters. He said she would appeal against the verdict.

Sanjar Umarov, a 49-year-old cotton and oil businessman who chairs the Sunshine coalition, is also on trial on economic charges. Prosecutors called last week for him to be jailed for more than 13 years. Umarov set up the Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition last year to campaign for reform of the country’s Soviet-style economy, which independent economists say has kept much of the population in poverty.

Following the violence in Andizhan, where troops opened fire on a large crowd of men, women and children after armed militants seized a government building, Umarov criticized the government and called on people to join his coalition. Khidayatova held a news conference in Moscow in November, calling on Russia to drop its support for Karimov and acknowledge widespread human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

Karimov, who says he is fighting militant Islamists and is backed by Russian and China, has denied any ordinary members of the public were killed in Andizhan. His government says 187 people, mostly “bandits” and “terrorists” and some police, were killed, while independent witness estimates put the death toll at around 500.