Leading Russian rights activists have accused authorities of fabricating criminal cases and falsely prosecuting people on Islamic-extremism charges in an attempt to show successes in fighting terrorism, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The campaign, launched after September’s school hostage seizure, targets mostly Russian Muslims as well as Uzbeks, Tajiks and Kyrgyz residing in Russia, Vitaly Ponomaryov, head of the Central Asia program for the rights group Memorial said Tuesday.
Activists accused Russian agencies of illegally allowing Uzbek security officers to operate on Russian territory and to detain suspects.
A spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office declined to respond to the accusations, saying a statement would be issued later.
[Activist Svetlana] Gannushkina said Russian and Uzbek authorities had detained 14 people in the central Russian city of Ivanovo in June on charges of involvement in the May unrest in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan.
Uzbek troops violently suppressed an uprising in Andijan on May 13, later calling it a revolt by Islamic radicals. Since then, Uzbek authorities have been seeking the extradition of suspects from Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
Gannushkina contended, however, that only one detainee was in Andijan during the uprising, while the rest were acquaintances or business partners. One detainee is a Russian citizen, while another one is a Kyrgyz citizen who traveled to Ivanovo from Turkey to trade textiles, she said.
Citing unnamed officials close to the investigation, Ponomaryov also said that Uzbekistan issued extradition requests nearly one month after the men had been detained, meaning they were held in custody unlawfully.
Ponomaryov said a Memorial study conducted in some of Russia’s 89 regions showed at least 23 extremism cases involving some 80 people have been fabricated since last fall. But he said the real number is estimated to be much higher.
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