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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbek Defendant Says He Had Military Plan

APMuidin Sobirov answering questions as he stands in the defendants' cage in the Tashkent courtroom on Wednesday.
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- The first of 15 defendants on trial in connection with the Andijan uprising confessed Wednesday to charges of starting the revolt to usher in Islamic rule in Uzbekistan.

Muidin Sobirov, 42, said he had prepared a military plan for the May 13 uprising, and that the conspirators had received funding from abroad. He named no countries and gave no other details.

"I confess and I beg forgiveness from all parents whose children were killed," said Sobirov, who said he had worked as a researcher at a seismic institute before going into business and joining the Akramia business group in Andijan.

The uprising erupted when militants seized a prison and freed 23 businessmen who had been on trial on charges of Islamic extremism. The attackers then seized a local administration building and about 70 hostages as thousands of demonstrators gathered in an adjacent square.

Human rights groups claimed that the revolt led to a brutal government crackdown that killed more than 700 people, mostly civilians shot while trying to flee the square.

The government of President Islam Karimov said 187 people died, mostly militants.

Sobirov and 14 others pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in the uprising.

Prosecutors said the 15 men were linked to a Muslim extremist conspiracy to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. Three of the defendants were among the 23 businessmen whose trial sparked the unrest.

In his two-hour testimony Wednesday, Sobirov, who said he had served as a Soviet paratrooper during the Afghan war, told the court that he had presented the military plan for the revolt to the accused plot leader, Kabuljon Parpiyev.

He described planning with his comrades to create an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, and how militants were trained in camps in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbek rights activist Surat Ikramov said Tuesday that he believed the men had been forced to confess under torture. Western human rights groups also released reports accusing Uzbek police of engaging in a brutal intimidation campaign, which included forcing people to confess membership in extremist religious groups.


AP

Holida Kholbayeva, widow of a slain police officer, asking Sobirov a question.

Sobirov told the court that he had overseen the creation of a military-like structure and led the group in attacks on military and police barracks. He said he had ordered the taking of hostages in order to use them as human shields if necessary, and to exchange them for Akramia members who were taken prisoner.

He said that, following the guidance of foreign journalists, they had tried to pose as secular people, wearing civilian clothes and shunning religious garb, and had given food to people in the square.

"Foreign journalists advised us to do that following the example of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan," he said, referring to uprisings that had ousted longtime leaders in other former Soviet republics and shaken Karimov and other regional leaders.

"When foreign journalists started helping us, we realized that we would get even more help if we posed as secular people," Sobirov said.

He backed up the prosecutors' contention that Akramia belonged to the outlawed Islamic group Hizb-ut Tahrir.

He said the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent had advised one of the plot members to approach a human rights group, which he claimed organized a news conference casting the 23 businessmen as innocent victims of the Karimov regime.