- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — Three defendants accused of initiating a revolt to bring Islamic rule to Uzbekistan told a court this week they trained at military camps in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, backing the government’s claim of a conspiracy that included foreign fighters and funding.

Two other suspects blamed the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, charging it was involved, although they gave no details and claimed no direct knowledge of the transaction.

“I was told our people received money from the American Embassy,” said Tavakkalbek Khojiyev, who owned a business in Andijan, a city in eastern Uzbekistan, where the May 13 uprising occurred.

A U.S. Embassy official at the trial, Alexander Schrank, declined comment.

The former Soviet republic’s authoritarian regime hopes the carefully choreographed trial will refute accusations that government troops fired on a crowd of protesters in Andijan, killing hundreds, and support its contention that extremist Islamic groups abroad encouraged the protest.

Human rights groups and refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan claimed the government killed more than 700 people — most of them civilians shot trying to flee the square. The government of President Islam Karimov, whose rule goes back to the Soviet era, said 187 persons died, mostly militants.

Human rights groups claim the confessions in the trial were coerced through torture.

The uprising began when militants seized a prison and freed 23 businessmen who had been on trial for reputed Islamist extremism. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in an adjacent square to complain of economic conditions.

Three defendants — all ethnic Uzbeks with Kyrgyz citizenship — said Monday the instructors at the camp near the village of Teke in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan was a Chechen with red hair and blue eyes named Mamed who taught the rebels how to operate weapons and dig trenches.

Mamed was paid $50,000 by the militant in charge of the camp, defendant Jakhongir Burkhonov told the trial.

The defendants said eight Tajiks also spent time at the camp as emissaries of Tahir Yuldash, a leader of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The defendants testified he had promised his help, including sending more fighters from Afghanistan.

“We had been told that victory would be on our side and the people would follow us,” said Valijon Ergashev.

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