Archive for Uzbekistan
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry has sent a note of protest to Tashkent regarding a traffic accident involving an Uzbek Embassy official that reportedly led to a scuffle. The ministry’s press service reported its response on August 26. It said that a car with an Uzbek Embassy license plate collided with another vehicle after midnight on August 23 near a nightclub in Bishkek. According to the ministry, the Uzbek Embassy’s first secretary, whose name was given as “M. Khairitdinov,” and several men accompanying him, assaulted the Kyrgyz driver of another vehicle involved in the accident. Uzbek Embassy officials were not available for immediate comment.
Immigrants from Uzbekistan wrote to the head of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry about the humiliating and rude treatment they received at the country’s embassy in the United States, where they say they feel like they are back home. About 70,000 Uzbek citizens are currently living in the United States, according to their leadership. Every one of them comes once in a while in contact with the Uzbek Embassy and Consulate in the United States when they need to file or make changes to an official document, send a document back home or handle another official question. Before you even get in the door of the consulate in New York, some say they feel the forgotten taste of the Uzbek regime—it’s rudeness and indifference to its own people, and they themselves feel like slaves with no rights.
Britain has been accused of abandoning a Foreign Office employee who says he was tortured by the Uzbek authorities and accused of spying for London. Kayum Ortikov, 44, a married father of four who worked for the British government as a security guard, ended up in a dungeon in Tashkent after being arrested on charges of “human trafficking”. It appears the extent of his “crime” was trying to help arrange visas for some relatives to work in Russia. Mr Ortikov claims that his refusal to become an informant for Uzbekistan’s secret police led to torture sessions in which he was accused of spying for the British. In the months after his arrest in December 2008, he says he was hung from the ceiling and beaten, left naked in a freezing room, and burnt on his genitals with a newspaper which had been set alight. He remained in prison for another two years, during which time, he says, he did not receive a single visit from British officials. He said: “Military intelligence and the SNB [National Security Service] tried hard to get employees of the British embassy to work for them as spies… I said, ‘I’m not going to do this’.” He recalls being warned that he would “pay” for his refusal. In October 2009, his wife, Mohira, 40, was finally allowed to visit him. Shocked, and barely recognising the shell of the man who was her husband, she spoke to human rights campaigners. She claims it was only then that British embassy staff agreed to meet her – a year after her husband’s arrest. “They were very warm and really seemed like they wanted to help, but then I didn’t hear from them for a year and a half,” she said. In 2011, The Independent on Sunday interviewed Mr Ortikov’s wife in Uzbekistan. Several weeks later, in May, the Uzbek authorities released her husband. The family managed to flee Uzbekistan last year and are living in a three-room flat in Ukraine. Their case is being dealt with by the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. Fears for the safety of his family and concern that going public could affect their chances of resettling in Britain have prevented Mr Ortikov from speaking out until now. “I was not a British spy – they should have proven this to the Uzbek government. Why did they wait so long? Why were they silent so long?” He accuses embassy officials of washing their hands of him. “They didn’t want to damage their relations with the Uzbek government because of me and my case. On 2 February  they sent in the mail a letter to my home informing my family and I that I was no longer an employee and after that I think they just didn’t care what happened to me. They threw me away.”
Uzbek diplomatic officials have offered rare commentary on a Swiss money-laundering case involving four Uzbek nationals with ties to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the Uzbek president. Responding in writing to a request for information from the Swiss newspaper “Le Temps,” the Uzbek Embassy for Switzerland, which is based in Berlin, gave few details about the case but offered speculation about the whereabouts of a missing businessman involved in the investigation. In the letter, embassy officials accuse the businessman, Bekhzod Akhmedov, of massive fraud and suggest his Russian-based partners have helped him evade arrest. Akhmedov, in addition to being involved in the Swiss investigation, is at the heart of an ongoing dispute between Uzbek authorities and the Russian mobile-phone operator MTS. Akhmedov, who served as the head of MTS’s Uzbek subsidiary, fled Uzbekistan this summer amid a dispute in which Uzbek officials revoked MTS’s license and demanded nearly $1 billion in back taxes after leveling charges of financial wrongdoing. MTS has accused Uzbek authorities of making false allegations in order to strip the company of its assets. Akhmedov’s whereabouts are unknown. An Interpol warrant has been issued for his arrest at the request of the Uzbek government. The Swiss investigation raised questions about possible financial connections between the four Uzbek nationals and the presidential daughter, whose personal fortune is estimated at $500 million. The paper also quoted unnamed members of Geneva’s diplomatic community as saying the case was unlikely to implicate Karimova, who as Uzbekistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva enjoys diplomatic immunity. Karimova, 40, is frequently mentioned as a likely successor to her father, Islam Karimov, who is considered the architect of one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia.
An Uzbekistan embassy official and three Egyptians are facing charges in Egypt after allegedly feeding donkey meat to pet lions. The official, an embassy media adviser, was charged along with an Egyptian businessman and two guards who worked in two villas near the coastal city of Alexandria where eight lions were kept without permits, judicial officials said. The embassy could not be immediately reached for comment. It was not clear whether the official had diplomatic immunity. The men were also accused of endangering public safety by keeping the lions and polluting the environment with donkey heads and remnants. Killing draught animals without cause is forbidden under Egypt’s criminal code, but the donkeys are slaughtered and fed to lions in Cairo’s zoo in a practice condemned by the country’s animal welfare activists. A zoo official who asked not to be named said donkeys provided the lions with glycogen, a carbohydrate.