KYRGYZSTAN: Muslim Rights Activist Detained.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 22 January 2002

Bahodyr Akhmedov, the son of a prominent local imam, was detained on 11 January by officers of the National Security Service (NSS) in Jalal-Abad city, in southern Kyrgyzstan, Keston News Service learned on 17 January from the Bishkek-based Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law. Akhmedov is a member of the Committee for the Protection of Muslims' Rights - an officially registered non-governmental organisation in Kyrgyzstan founded by, among others, a member of parliament, the president of the sub-committee for religious affairs Alisher Sobirov.

"Akhmedov certainly did hold quite radical views, but I doubt very much whether he could have gone so far as to break the law," Sobirov told Keston in Bishkek on 18 January. "We are looking into this case carefully, and are gathering information. For the time being, I will refrain from drawing any definite conclusions."

Akhmedov's father Makhamadjan, described by the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law as "one of the most well-known and respected imams in Jalal-Abad", denies any claims that his son belongs to radical branches of the Muslim religion. Yet Makhamadjan Akhmedov, a Kyrgyz citizen from the country's ethnic Uzbek minority, was himself included in a list of "politically unreliable persons" by the Uzbek special forces. "Makhamadjan has never been to Uzbekistan, fearing that he would be arrested there," his wife Marina Akhmedova told Keston by telephone on 18 January. She added that Makhamadjan Akhmedov's brother Bakhram fled to Australia from the Uzbek special forces in 1998, leaving behind his wife and four children, and requested political asylum there.

Until recently, Makhamadjan Akhmedov had no problems with the Kyrgyz authorities. However, Marina Akhmedova told Keston, towards the end of November 2001 employees of the Kyrgyz special forces came to her house twice and questioned her about her husband. She is convinced that they planted bullets. "I have cleaned the apartment daily, I know all its nooks and crannies, and I can testify that there were no bullets in it," she said.

According to unofficial sources, on 11 January the Akhmedovs' house was the subject of a search-and-confiscate operation. Money, photos, a TV, video, camera, video-cassettes, fax machine and even the water heater were confiscated. So far, only a private car has been returned. Bahodyr Akhmedov was arrested and on 13 January transferred to the capital, Bishkek, where he is currently held in an NSS pre-trial detention centre (known in Russian as a SIZO). His relatives have reported that his health is good. According to Akhmedov's lawyer, he is accused of illegally harbouring weapons (gun cartridges) (under article 241 part 1 of the Criminal Code) which were allegedly found during the search. The maximum punishment is three years' imprisonment plus a fine amounting to 1,000 US dollars. The NSS sent video tapes of the search for expert analysis.

Marina Akhmedova told Keston that in November 2001 NSS employees had tried to get into her apartment a third time, hoping that no-one would be there. "They knew that I had gone to meet my husband, and decided to get into our flat at that time, to leave something else. But they were not successful, because when they opened the door they saw my mother in our apartment. They simply lost their nerve, made their excuses and left straight away," Marina Akhmedova told Keston on 18 January.

"The very manner of Akhmedov's arrest is reminiscent in every respect of a method widely used in neighbouring Uzbekistan, when they simply plant bullets surreptitiously in the houses of people they did not like, so that they could be arrested later. Therefore I, personally, have strong doubts as to Akhmedov's guilt," Keston was told by telephone on 18 January by a human rights activist from Jalal-Abad who preferred not to be named.

"I will not make any kind of comment for the time being. I will only say that we are following Akhmedov's case carefully," Kathleen Samuel, an official of the mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Osh (the regional centre of southern Kyrgyzstan), told Keston by telephone on 18 January. (END)