Trial of a teacher of Islam extradited from Russia is approaching its end in Andizhan
According to Uzbek human rights activist Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov, the Andizhan Regional Court is about to complete the trial of Mannobzhon Rakhmatullayev, teacher of Islam kidnapped by Uzbek secret services in Russia. Rakhmatullayev is facing charges under Articles 155 Part 3 Clause B (terrorism), 156 Part 2 Clause E (inflammation of ethnic or religious hatred), 159 Part 4 (encroachment on the constitutional regime), 223 Part 2 Clause B (illegal border crossing), 242 Parts 1, 2 (organization of a gang), 244-1 Part 2 (proliferation of materials endangering public safety), 248 Part 3 (illegal possession of ordnance) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Citizen of Uzbekistan Rakhmatullayev has lived in the town of Marx (Saratov region, Russia) since 1995, working as a teacher of the Arab language in the local mosque. Rakhmatullayev was put on the list of wanted criminals in Uzbekistan under Article 223 Part 1 (for the unauthorized hadzh, a trip to Moslem holy places, in 1992) in 1998. Secret services detained Rakhmatullayev on October 2, 2002, but on November 26 the Saratov Regional Court proclaimed the decision of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office on his extradition illegitimate. The authorities of Uzbekistan immediately pressed additional charges against Rakhmatullayev but the Russian side found them ungrounded. Rakhmatullayev was released in October 2003, extradition request denied by the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation (see Memorial press releases for October 5, 2002, November 28, 2002, April 13, 2003, and July 21. 2004). Prominent human rights organizations (Memorial, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch) participated in the campaign for Rakhmatullayev's release.
Unidentified masked men abducted Rakhmatullayev from his house in Marx on July 21, 2004. Lawyer Rustam Khametov says that the regional prosecutor's office denied any knowledge of Rakhmatullayev's detention by law enforcement agencies or of any new extradition requests.
In September 2004, Memorial and Moscow office of Human Rights Watch received letters signed by A. Gorshkov, Senior Deputy Prosecutor of the Saratov region, to the effect that disappearance of Rakhmatullayev was being investigated under Articles 144 and 145 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The regional prosecutor's office demanded for examination the decision of the Kirov Regional Prosecutor's Office of Saratov that denied the request to investigate disappearance (abduction, in fact) of Rakhmatullayev's son-in-law Ruvazhdin Rakhmanov in July 2003. Uzbek human rights community claims that Rakhmanov was quietly escorted to Uzbekistan and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in January 2004. He serves his sentence in Colony UYa 64/33 in the Kashkadarja region.
Rakhmatullayev's and Rakhmanov's affairs confirm numerous unofficial reports on abduction of Uzbeks from the Russian Trans-Volga region by Uzbek secret services in 2002 - 2004. Unfortunately, Russian law enforcement agencies assist agents of Uzbek secret services in all sorts of illegitimate activities instead of preventing them.
Should Rakhmatullayev be convicted under Article 144 Part 3, these fabricated charges may cost the defendant between 15 and 20 years imprisonment or capital punishment.
Vitaly Ponomarev, Director of Human Rights Monitoring Programs in Central Asia
Memorial Human Rights Center (Moscow), January 18, 2005