Uzbek Raid on Turkish Firms Could be Turf War: BBC
The BBC's Uzbek Service has some more details and theories about the crackdown on Turkish businesses accused of being fronts for an extremist Islamic group, reported by the Turko-File.
The BBC Uzbek Service says that in a March 3 broadcast, Uzbek state television claimed some 50 firms had "abused the favorable investment climate" and "brotherly relations" and had "hidden from taxation" and were closed. Some, including Turkuaz, Gunesh, and Kaynak, were charged with supporting the banned movement known as "Nurchilar" in Uzbekistan, or the Nurcus, followers of the teachings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi and/or Fetullah Gulen. According to Uzbek television, about 400 million soums (approximately $174,000) were confiscated from the stores' accounts and managers were prosecuted.
A source in the Turkish Embassy in Tashkent who requested anonymity told the BBC that numerous special forces arrived in buses and raided Turkuaz, a large supermarket in Tashkent.
"Armed agents also burst into the office of Vokhid Gunesh, the manager, forced him to lay down on the floor and beat him," the source added. Gunesh was held in the store for several hours while police ransacked the shelves and confiscated goods, and was later hospitalized. Attempts by Turkish consular officials to visit him were reportedly blocked.
A unnamed Turkish Embassy official called the actions "terrorism," and another Embassy employee who wished to remain anonymous said that such raids by Uzbek police had taken place before, but had never been been so brutal, BBC reported. The employee noted that the Uzbek government's claims that the firms had been engaged in illicit religious activity, such as disseminating literature, should be verified.
"These firms have been conducting business in Uzbekistan for many years, why are they being accused only now?" he asked.
The Turkish Embassy representative said seven major Turkish companies were closed starting in December 2010. Back in the 1990s, when similar attacks on Turkish firms took place, the Turkish government theorized that it was in retaliation for Turkey's offer of asylum to leaders of the Uzbek opposition. But according to some observers, the current raids are more likely to be about a turf battle between various business groups in Uzbekistan fighting for a cut of the revenue, says the BBC.
According to a report from Uzbek human rights monitors cited by the independent news service ferghanews.com, about 40 people have been sentenced for their allegedly involvement in the Nurcus since 2009.
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