Uzbek authorities have jailed hundreds of people and forced them to confess to links to radical Islamists to justify the army crackdown on peaceful demonstrators last May that left 500 people dead, The Independent has learnt.
Human Rights Watch reports that witnesses of the massacre in the eastern city of Andizhan and relatives of the victims, have been rounded up and jailed for between 10 to 15 days on fabricated charges. "They are severely beaten and tortured until they sign statements confessing to being members of radical Islamic groups," a researcher for the group who has just visited the central Asian region said.
Despite eyewitness accounts contradicting the government version, the Uzbek authorities continue to insist that the army was forced to act on 13 May to put down an attempt by radical extremist Muslims to overthrow it. Human Rights Watch fears that the jailing and coercion of "hundreds, or even thousands" of people is a deliberate tactic aimed at bolstering the government's case. It appears that some have been so intimidated that they have readily confessed to having been manipulated by the radicals.
The issue of the Uzbekistan massacre is not on the agenda of the next foreign ministers' meeting on 1 September. A Foreign Office spokesman denied that this was letting President Karimov off the hook. "We are working through the United Nations and other regional organisations to establish an independent inquiry," the spokesman said.
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