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[] [TURKISTAN-N] TN: Internet Allegations Hit Uzbekistan,
Turkistan Newsletter Sun, 26 Jan 2003 14:13:35
Turkistan Bulteni ISSN:1386-6265
Uze Tengri basmasar asra yer telinmeser, Turk bodun ilining torugin
kem artati, udaci erti. [Bilge Kagan in Orkhon inscriptions]

Internet Allegations Hit Uzbekistan
January 21 2003 at 8:33 PM
.c The Associated Press

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) - A series of stories posted on the Internet
before access was cut off have alleged high-level corruption and the
president's imminent resignation, stirring rare public debate in this
tightly controlled Central Asian nation.

The first lurid stories alleging high-level drug-dealing and a
government-staged terrorist attack appeared in the first week of 
January on
sites based in neighboring Russia and Kazakhstan.

Although access has been cut off, allegedly by the Uzbekistan 
they have become the hottest read in town - passed around by e-mail, in
print or by word of mouth. They could add to the instability of an
important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

Official corruption isn't news to Uzbeks who cope with it daily at 
checkpoints and government offices. But the Internet stories level 
accusations against officials at the very top, including President 
Karimov, his top advisers and the interior and security chiefs.

Like much of what appears on the Internet, they cannot be verified. 
are signed ``Usman Khaknazarov, political analyst,'' a name unknown 
and are denied by the government which also insists it was not 
for shutting access to the Web sites.

They include the unsubstantiated allegation that Karimov was a 
who set up drug rings between Uzbek dealers and northern Afghan warlord
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, and that a February 1999 explosion in 
that killed at least 16 people was staged by officials to justify a
crackdown on opposition.

They also alleged that Karimov was seriously ill and said this had
intensified fighting between powerful rival political clans.

Widely rumored over the past year, there has been no official 
of the president's poor health. Questioned by journalists in August,
Karimov said he was perfectly well and just like other people sometimes
caught a cold.

A presidential spokesman, Sherzod Kudratkhodzhayev, said Friday the 
were ``fabrications and slander'' and that Karimov was healthy.

``These articles are extremely subjective and tendentious and are 
the result of somebody's political order,'' Kudratkhodzhayev said.

Karimov, who turns 65 on Jan. 30, has ruled the nation since before the
1991 Soviet collapse. His government has long been criticized for its 
rights record and lack of economic reforms, but provides an air base 
anti-terrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan and is also 
German troops.

Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia with 25 million
people and has been the main target of regional militant Islamic 
groups. It
borders on all other countries in the region and Afghanistan, and its
internal stability is crucial for the security of the whole region.

Karimov next faces a vote in 2007, after his term was extended in 2002 
an internationally criticized referendum.

The Internet stories ended with calls for people to demand Karimov and 
government resign and not let Karimov choose a successor. The author 
urged people ``to spread the truth among your close ones and 

``Start with words, they are a powerful weapon,'' the author said.

Atonazar Arifov, leader of the banned opposition party Erk, said the
stories probably came from an informed source in government circles.

``There is a lot of truth there,'' he claimed.

Arifov said the blocking of access showed they made the government 
and officials were probably trying to establish who wrote the articles.

The Communication Ministry said there is no order to block the sites.

``Most likely these sites are not working for technical reasons,'' said
Deputy Communications Minister Alisher Khodzhayev.

However, Internet providers said nothing is wrong with the sites and 
are still accessible outside the country; the latest article in the 
on Karimov's possible successors, was accessible in neighboring 
on Saturday. Web sites of the opposition Birlik party and 
Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a
banned radical Islamic group, have not been accessible in Uzbekistan 

Sociologist Bakhodyr Musayev said the articles revealed ``a big fight 
of an imminent change of leadership.'' Arifov said that with no strong
democratic opposition or history of free elections, the nation might be
heading for a painful power shift.

``We don't want the president's sudden death, because then there will 
likely be blood and some tyrant will come to power,'' he said.

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