According to Ozodlik and information from the Choriev family in the US, on 17 June 71-year old Hasan Choriev was taken away by local police in his home distict of Shahrisabz, Qashqadaryo province. He is being held without charges and in an undisclosed location. So far local authorities refuse to comment, or to even confirm that the elder Choriev is in their custody: this is the second time in twelve months he has been arrested.
Choriev’s son, Bahodyr, founded the Birdamlik (Unity) opposition party, whose activists inside Uzbekistan are frequent targets of arrest and intimidation. Birdamlik has adopted some unusually successful and novel approaches, including campaigns to educate people about the constitution of Uzbekistan so they can demand that leaders follow the law, and silent protests in which activists participate by dressing in white-colored clothing on specific days. These less traditional tactics and Bahodyr’s status as a US political asylee seem to particularly unnerve the government of Uzbekistan. Choriev returned to the country in 2009 to try to hold a party congress, and while security services allowed him to enter and gave him relative freedom of movement, activists and family members with whom he met were frequently beaten and intimidated by the SNB.
As Birdamlik adjusted tactics over the past year, the elder Choriev became increasingly a subject of interest for local authorities. In November of 2012, he was fined some $11,000 dollars for “slandering local authorities.” According to Birdamlik’s Uzbekistan chief Malohat Eshonkulova, Hasan Choriev was “escorted” by police this week to “speak with the local prosecutor” about complaints he had allegedly directed to President Karimov himself. No one has seen him since.
The elder Choriev is not in good health, and his family fears for his safety. As Registan veteran Sarah Kendzior pointed out in a recent article for AJE (and the shortly forthcoming 2013 Nations in Transit report for Freedom House) a 73 year old man arrested last year after filing a complaint in the Ferghana region against police brutality suffered a heart attack while in custody and received delayed treatment that nearly cost him his life. Like Choriev, he was arrested for violating a local ordinance “against complaining.”
The Uzbek government consistently expresses frustration with their inability to clear human rights hurdles in order to gain approval for defense assistance from the US Congress and remove remaining sanctions or limitations imposed by other bodies. Events like these seem likely to complicate those relationships for both sides.
UPDATE: UZNews has new coverage that includes reports of specific threats against Hasan Choriev in retaliation for his son’s political activities, and more analysis of the Fergananews article Hamdard pointed out below and its possible role in the timing of the arrest.