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Closed Trials In Uzbekistan

The government of Uzbekistan has been holding a round of closed trials of those it alleges were involved in the unrest in Andijan in May 2005. According to human rights groups, as many as one-thousand people were killed in a government crackdown on overwhelmingly peaceful protestors in the city. So far, more than one-hundred people have been convicted in highly questionable proceedings that do not meet international standards.

Unfortunately, outside monitors have not been allowed to attend most of the trials and journalists have been allowed access to only one day of the proceedings in the Supreme Court. The United States, said Kyle Scott of the U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, remains "very disturbed by the way these and earlier show trials were conducted." These show trials raise concerns about the denial of due process and alleged torture of defendants.

It appears that the latest victim of a secret Uzbek trial is human rights activist Saidjahon Zainabitdinov. It is believed he went on trial in January for his role in alerting the world about the violent crackdown by government forces on protesters in Andijan. According to the human rights group Appeal, Mr. Zainabitdinov was in custody for almost eight months before his trial began. Neither his family nor his lawyer was informed of the date or place of his trial. "Uzbek authorities are punishing him for telling the world what happened in Andijan," said Holly Cartner of Human Rights Watch. "He should be released immediately," she said.

The U.S. has called for an independent, international investigation of the protests and violent government crackdown in Andijan. Holding secret trials is in flagrant violation of the government of Uzbekistan's commitments. Uzbek government concerns about national security cannot justify preventing a full investigation into what really happened in Andijan.

It is incumbent on the government of Uzbekistan to lift its chokehold on the courts, to allow an independent, international investigation, and to stop preventing Uzbek citizens from exercising their fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.