Uzbekistan trials begin into Karakalpakstan’s July violence 

Uzbekistan trials begin into Karakalpakstan’s July violence 

The trial of 22 people in Uzbekistan has began with them facing charges of “undermining the constitutional order” by joining anti-regime protests in July in the remote, supposedly autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan.

The authorities say 21 people, including four law enforcement officers, died in protests, sparked by proposed constitutional changes that were seen as undermining Karakalpakstan’s right to self-determination. 

What began as peaceful protests degenerated into violence, with witnesses saying the authorities used violent measures and live weapons to disperse the crowd.

The EU has called for an independent probe into the uprising and the subsequent police crackdown.

Violence in the regional capital Nukus prompted President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has dictatorial powers, to scrap the constitutional proposals. The changes would have removed Karakalpakstan’s notional constitutional right to hold a referendum to secede from Uzbekistan. 

The Karakalpak population is a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people.

Uzbekistan has been pursuing the extradition of Karakalpak activists in neighboring Kazakhstan, several of whom have been seized by the Kazakh authorities.

Aziz Obidov, a Supreme Court of Uzbekistan spokesman posted on the Telegram messaging service that 22 people were on trial in Bukhara, including one under house arrest and another on bail. Historic Bukhara is about 600km from Nukus.  

The most prominent figure on trial is Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov, an activist in Nukus, is being charged on multiple counts, including trying to seize power through violence.

Journalist Lolagul Kallykhanova is also being charged with plotting to seize power, instigating unrest and involvement in a conspiracy to inflict bodily harm. Neither have been seen since their arrest in July.

They face charges of “undermining constitutional order”, which carries a 20-year jail sentence, among other charges.

Selected journalists have been permitted to attend the proceedings, which are being conducted in the Karakalpak language.

Sprawling Karakalpakstan has fewer than 2 million residents in a country of 35 million but it covers more than a third of Uzbekistan’s territory.

Karakalpakstan was an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and it was then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.

As with other Central Asian despots, Mirziyoyev accused “foreign forces” of organising the protests, without providing any evidence.

Mirziyoyev took power in 2016 after the death of the tyrannical president, Islam Karimov.


Karakalpakstan in July. Picture credit: YouTube 

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