Euro Court Rules for Uzbeks

STRASBOURG, France -- The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Russia breached the rights of 13 businessmen charged by Uzbek authorities with financing a 2005 anti-government uprising.

The court said Russia violated the civil liberties of 12 Uzbeks and one Kyrgyz national by detaining them after the uprising and holding them for 20 months without trial on charges they denied.

All 13 are Muslims who fled to Russia between 2000 and 2005 for fear of persecution in Uzbekistan for their religious beliefs and business activities.

The court said Russia would further violate their rights if it extradited them to Uzbekistan, where they say they would face ill treatment and persecution. The ruling awarded each plaintiff 15,000 euros in damages and a total of 17,709 euros to the group for court costs.

Government troops opened fire on crowds in the May 2005 protests in the Uzbek city of Andijan. Survivors and human rights groups said at least 700 people died, but the government put the figure at 187, and it blamed Islamic militants for the violence.

The Strasbourg court agreed with the plaintiffs that there was a danger they could be tortured in Uzbekistan if extradited. It also chided Russia for its inconsistent laws governing the placing of suspects into custody.

As a member of the Council of Europe, Russia is required to abide by the court's rulings.