Uzbek police clamp down on protesters
TASHKENT: Uzbek police said on Wednesday no one was injured and no arrests were made after a rough police sweep through a tent camp set up in protest near the US Embassy in the capital, Tashkent, the night before.
Interior Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Tutin said the protesters, including 11 men, 13 women and 19 children, were put on buses Wednesday and sent to their southern home city of Shahrisabz, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Tashkent. He said no one was injured. Police in the southern region said none of the protesters was arrested.
In Tuesday night’s police operation, about 200 men dressed in civilian clothes stomped on tents, beat protesters with rubber truncheons and hauled people yelling and screaming onto buses, witnesses said. The picketers had set up three tents earlier Tuesday to protest alleged rights abuses by the government. Most were relatives of Bakhodir Choriyev, whose private farm was seized by authorities in 1999 and who was granted US asylum in January after being arrested several times.
The group intended to protest until either their farm property was returned by the Uzbek government or they were granted asylum in the United States. The US Embassy said in a statement Wednesday that the protesters posed no security threat to the Embassy and did not interfere with its operations.
“We regret that government authorities overnight removed them and resorted to force to do so,” it said.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s government has long drawn international criticism for the lack of democratic reforms and poor human rights record.
Private business has been stifled in this ex-Soviet republic by restrictive laws and arbitrary inspections, and local authorities routinely take over successful businesses. ap