Dawn: Moscow 'pursuing' Muslims: HR body
- 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
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
“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