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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trial Starts of Musician Who Penned 'Andijan'

APKhasanov near the court Monday
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — A dissident Uzbek musician who recorded a song about last year's crackdown on a revolt in the eastern city of Andijan went on trial Monday for slander.

Dadakhon Khasanov is accused of insulting Uzbek President Islam Karimov, infringing upon the Constitution and disseminating illegal information, defense lawyer Surat Ikramov said. The trial at Tashkent City Court was adjourned just after opening when Ikramov demanded that the song's lyrics be examined by linguists.

"They want to keep my tongue tied, so I don't write songs against this dictatorship," Khasanov, who has been under house arrest since April, said in an interview.

The 66-year-old singer, who has been barred since 1992 from publicly performing in Uzbekistan, composed the song "Andijan" days after government troops opened fire on thousands of demonstrators in the eastern city on May 13, 2005.

Rights groups and witnesses say the demonstrators were mostly unarmed and that hundreds were killed; the government says fewer than 200 died.

The song's lyrics include the words: "Don't say you haven't seen how Andijan was drowned in blood. … The victims fell like mulberries, the children's bloodied bodies were like tulips."

It is unclear how widely the song was distributed; it was recorded on tape and has been passed mainly person-to-person. U.S.-funded Radio Liberty played it every time they reported on the Andijan incident, and the criminal case against Khasanov was opened after a police officer heard it on a bus in the western region of Bukhara.

Khasanov, who began his artistic career in the 1960s, was often at odds with Soviet authorities, and he was briefly arrested in 1976. In the early 1990s, he became one of the founders of opposition Birlik party, which has been banned by Karimov's government.