Alleged Karakalpak separatists sentenced in Uzbekistan

Alleged Karakalpak separatists sentenced in Uzbekistan

An Uzbek court has started the trials of 39 more Karakalpak activists accused of taking part in anti-government protests in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan last summer.

Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court said 20 of the defendants are being charged with organizing large-scale unrest and seven face charges for distributing materials inciting social discord at a court in the historic city of Bukhara. Seven are accused of inflicting serious bodily harm and four with the illegal use of firearms. Another defendant is being charged with torture and blackmail.

The Bukhara court last week sentenced 22 Karakalpak citizens, handing lawyer Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov a 16-year sentence for plotting to seize power, organizing mass unrest, embezzlement and money laundering.

Twenty-one defendants recanted and asked for forgiveness and blamed Tazhimuratov, accusing him of tricking them into opposing the authorities.

Four defendants were released from custody with suspended sentences.

Another 17 defendants were sentenced to prison terms of up to 8½ years.

Uzbekistan’s Prosecutor General’s Office said this week that one of the alleged activists who was handed a six-year prison sentence, Polat Shamshetov, 45, died at the weekend in custody with “thromboembolism of the pulmonary artery and acute heart failure.”

Karakalpak activists asked if Shamshetov, a former police officer, had been tortured to death and demanded a proper post-mortem.

The Uzbek regime claims 21 people died in Karakalpakstan during summer protests sparked by the announcement in early July last year of a proposed change to the constitution that would have weakened the large region’s right to self-determination.

The charter change would have abolished Karakalpakstan’s legally enshrined privilege to invoke an independence referendum.

Large protests in Nukus, Karakalpakstan’s regional capital, prompted President Shavkat Mirziyoev to U-turn and ditch the proposal.

As is common with Central Asian dictators, Mirziyoev claimed foreign forces were behind the protests before ditching his constitutional changes.

Karakalpaks are Turkic-speaking. The region was previously an autonomous area of Kazakhstan before it was deemed “autonomous” within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930. It was added to Uzbekistan in 1936.

Karakalpakstan has fewer than 2 million residents among the 35 million inhabitants of Uzbekistan. But it covers more than one-third of Uzbek territory.

The European Union has called for an independent probe into last year’s unrest and the police response.

Nukus. Picture credit: Wikipedia

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