Tashkent, 18 thousand removed from the 'blacklist' of extremists

In the Karimov era, with the fight against religious extremism, the secret services justified abuse and were the armed arm against dissent. Mirzyoyev denounces torture of innocent people and promises to bring the guilty to justice.

Tashkent (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This year more than 18 thousand Uzbek citizens have been removed from the list of accused of religious extremism, Interior Minister Pulat Bobojonov, announced yesterday to journalists. Since taking office, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is trying to reform the country, fighting persecution against religious freedom and dissent, as well as the scourge of exploitation in the cotton fields.

Under the Islam Karimov regime, which lasted 27 years until his death, the Uzbekistan National Security Service (Snb) had become infamous for its abuses in the name of the fight against religious extremism. In Uzbekistan, most of the 32 million citizens are Muslims; thousands were imprisoned with extremist charges and registered on a blacklist of potential extremists.

President Mirziyoyev came down hard on the secret services saying that their "time is up" during a meeting with some local activists in the province of Bukhara, on 16 February. Successor of the Soviet KGB, the Snb was the Karimov regime’s armed wing against dissent. Since he took office, Mirziyoyev has expressed his intention to limit the role of the SNB. On January 31st, he removed the  head of the secret services, Rustam Inoyatov, who had been running the agency for almost 23 years. The president also ordered the Snb to remove its agents from the diplomatic missions and forbid the security forces from conducting searches or wiretaps without court permission.

According to Mirziyoyev, who entered his second year in office, the "crazy dogs" of the security services are responsible for barbarism towards innocents, especially against anyone "successful in business". He claims that the situation "was not even like that in 1937", alluding to the Stalinist era known as the "Great Terror". "I also have pictures showing torture", he reports. "I know the names of the inspectors who have committed these atrocities". And promises to deliver the guilty to justice: "They will spend 20 years in prison, if necessary".