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Dawn: Moscow 'pursuing' Muslims: HR body

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  • Norbert Strade
    DAWN - the Internet Edition August 3, 2005 Wednesday Moscow ‘pursuing’ Muslims: HR body MOSCOW, Aug 2: A human rights group accused Russia’s authorities
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2005
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      DAWN - the Internet Edition
      August 3, 2005 Wednesday

      Moscow ‘pursuing’ Muslims: HR body

      MOSCOW, Aug 2: A human rights group accused Russia’s authorities on
      Tuesday of using their campaign against terrorism as a pretext for an
      illegal and politicized pursuit of Muslims. “This campaign has either
      been initiated from the top, or it is a campaign that people have
      understood they are supposed to carry out,” Svetlana Ganushkina, a
      campaigner with the human rights organisation Memorial, said at a news
      conference.

      Memorial, which was established in the last years of the Soviet Union to
      uncover the mass abuses that took place under Soviet dictator Josef
      Stalin, said it had compiled numerous dossiers on Muslims who had been
      unfairly treated.

      “We are currently involved in 23 judicial inquiries concerning 81
      people, all of them Muslims officially pursued for extremist or
      terrorist activities, but all the cases have political subtexts,” Vitaly
      Ponomarev, director of Memorial’s Central Asia programme, said.

      Russia has been engaged in a campaign against separatists in the mainly
      Muslim North Caucasus region of Chechnya since 1999, when it moved in to
      restore control there. The two sides earlier fought a devastating civil
      war between 1994 and 1996.

      Muslims in Russia are sometimes imprisoned for up to eight years for
      membership of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a radical group with offices in London
      that advocates setting up an Islamic state in Central Asia by peaceful
      means, Ponamarev said.

      Ganushina also condemned the Russian authorities’ detention of 14 Uzbeks
      on June 18 on suspicion of involvement in the bloody events that shook
      the eastern Uzbek province of Andijan in May.

      “These people are still in detention and there was no document
      permitting their arrest for three weeks... Too often innocent people are
      found among the victims of the fight against terrorism in Russia,” she said.

      Uzbek authorities have said that they moved in to retake control after
      an insurrection by armed extremists on May 13 in Andijan, while human
      rights campaigners have said security forces opened fire on hundreds of
      unarmed civilians who held anti-government protests in the town.

      There are 20 million Muslims in Russia, according to official estimates,
      most of them in the North Caucasus as well as in the provinces of
      Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. —AFP
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