Uzbekistan: Human Rights Leader on Trail of Mysterious Suicide
The saga continues of the strange story of the Uzbek student who allegedly committed suicide after returning from study in Germany and reportedly suffering detention and torture by police in Andijan region. Human rights activists and reporters continue to speculate whether the case really happened as originally reported, whether it was maybe a concoction by an opposition group to discredit the Uzbek government, or whether a possible scheme by Uzbek intelligence to smear the opposition.
Elena Urlaeva, the Tashkent-based leader of the Human Rights Alliance, who originally reported the story, traveled again to the Kurgantepa district of Andijan region and has spent the last two days trying to track down the story of the alleged suicide, Gulsumoy Abdujalilova, and to lodge an inquiry to the police and prosecutor's office about the case. Here's an excerpt of the account of her trip sent via email today:
My driver told me that he had a brother who works in the Interior Ministry of Andijan region, so I asked him to find out the address of the relatives of Gulsumoy Abdujalilova. After some time I received a reply that there were no such people in Andijan region and that some woman had already been asking about this family.
Along the route to Kurgantepa district, I asked many people about Gulsumoy Abdujalilova and her family, but it's a large district stretching many kilometers along the border with Kyrgyzstan, and without an address, my search became more complicated.
On December 10, I went to the prosecutor's office of the Kurgantepa district in order to submit a statement about how Gulsumoy Abdujalilova was driven to suicide, but the prosecutor did not let me in; the guard said the prosecutor is not in his office on Saturday.
I wanted to meet with the chief of police of the district in order to personally hand him the statement. I was kept waiting for a long on the excuse that the officers were coming on shift, that the bosses were in a meeting, but after waiting two hours, when I photographed how the gates of the Interior Ministry Main Department were opened, I was immediately summoned by the guards, who demanded that I remove the photo.
Then, after writing down my passport information, they went to tell the chief that I was demanding a meeting.
Some time later I was received by Lt. Col. Izatullo Yusupov, head of the Kurgantepa District Interior Ministry Main Department , who immediately began telling me that he knew about my publication on the Internet concerning the case of Gulsumoy Abdujalilova. He told me that they had immediately begun searching for this family, and began telling me that there were no such people in Andijan region. He was speaking in rehearsed phrases, and it was evident that he was hiding something. I asked him to accept my statement, but he spent a long time refusing it, so I then said that I would write a complaint about him, since he was violating the law on citizens' appeals.
After that, he accepted my statement and then told his assistant to sign my copy, which he did, signing his last name as "Kokhorov." When I left the police department, Kokhorov ran after me, and told me to come back to see the chief.
Yusupov was talking to someone on his mobile telephone, and when he finished, he ordered me to give back to him the signed copy of my statement. Then I had a tail after leaving the police department -- two young men in plainclothes accompanied me until I got back in the car to head back to Tashkent.
Urlaeva writes that she doesn't regret trying to find the relatives of Abdujalilova, and that she is convinced that the officials are lying; "there's some kind of tense atmosphere in this district," she says.
She is hoping that a girlfriend of Abdujalilova's will be able to escape and tell the story of how she and Gulsumoy were allegedly tortured and forced to become agents of the Interior Ministry and National Security Service.
Urlaeva calls on the family to publish Gulsumoy's suicide note, in order to expose all those she believes to be complicit in her death, from the police to the semi-official online news site uzmetronom.com, which has discounted the story as fake..
She adds that Abdujalilova was reported to have been a student at School No. 5 in Kurgantep District, which she hopes will someday acknowledge her as a "hero and patriot" and ends her statement by calling for an investigation into what she believes was the death of a real person.
While there is an avid discussion about the case on the Central Asian blog Registan.net, no one seems to have come up with any new facts about this mysterious case. Human rights advocates are hoping to get more information from Gulsumoy's girlfriend or fellow students.