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Uzbek Journalist Reports Details of Andijan Massacre to U.S. Helsinki Commission

MosNews | June 29, 2005

An Uzbek journalist has told the U.S. Helsinki Commission she saw for herself the “merciless” Uzbek troops open fire at thousands of Andijan citizens on May 13.

“I was there. I was on Bobur Square in Andijan among thousands of Andijan citizens, when at 5:20 p.m. local time on May 13 the merciless authorities of Uzbekistan opened fire on their own people,” Galima Bukharbaeva, a journalist from Uzbekistan, told the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

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Bukharbaeva has worked as a country director of IWPR in Uzbekistan since 2000.

The authorities had not warned unarmed protesters of their plans, she said. “Thousands of people were unarmed and they were not forced by rebels to stay on the square.

”It was not an Islamic uprising. I did not hear any cries of ’Allah akbar’, or any demands to build an Islamic state. People demanded justice, human rights, economic and social reforms,“ she said.

According to the witness, the protesters did not make any political demands, such as Islam Karimov’s resignation.

There were no foreign mercenaries, neither Chechen militants nor those from Afghanistan. Those who carried arms belonged to the group of friends and relatives of the 23 businessmen, who were arrested a year before and were put on trial in an Andijan city court in February 2005, the journalist said.

The government attacked unexpectedly, she said. ”The shooting of Andijan citizens, everyone who was on the square at that time — children, teenagers, women, the elderly, journalists. It took place in cold blood, without mercy or pity. It was simply professional mass murder.

“The soldiers shot at the backs of people running in terror from the APCs, shooting from automatic weapons… One of the soldiers tried to kill me. A bullet from his weapon hit the backpack which was on my back, and went through it, passing through my notebook and my journalist identity card…”

“It seemed that all of Andijan had been turned into a slaughterhouse, and all its inhabitants turned to cannon fodder,” the reporter said.

“As I understand, this unrest was closely connected with the trial of 23 businessmen charged with belonging to the religious organization Akromiya. The hearing of this case finished at the Andijan city court on May 11, and the court withdrew to deliver its sentence. All journalists were waiting for the announcement of the verdict, we expected it on May 13.”

According to the witness, these 23 businessmen were arrested in summer 2004, and for one year they were detained in the cellar of the National Security Service in Andijan and were tortured.

 

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