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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Uzbek uprising 'chief' confesses
Defendants charged with terrorism sit in the supreme court of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, 20 September 2005
The defendants are being held in a metal cage
The man accused of being a key planner behind the popular uprising in the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan in May has confessed to the charges.

Muidin Sobirov was speaking on the second day of the trial of 15 men the Uzbek authorities say led the revolt.

All 15 are accused of being Muslim extremists.

Human rights groups claim that Uzbek troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians when they opened fire to quell the anti-government protest.

The Uzbek government said 187 people died.

The BBC's Ian MacWilliam, in Tashkent, says Mr Sobirov spoke for nearly two hours without a break, recounting his supposed connection with an Andijan religious group known as the Akramists.

He spoke from inside a metal cage before a row of state prosecutors in blue, military-style uniforms.

Mr Sobirov explained at length how the group had made plans to start a revolution in Andijan in order to set up an Islamic state.

All the details of his account exactly match those of the government's version of events, already given by the state prosecution and widely published in the state-controlled media.

Our correspondent says Mr Sobirov spoke rapidly without pauses, frequently looking at the ceiling, as if repeating details memorised beforehand.

He then answered questions for further details from the judge, prosecutors and lawyers.

But there was no attempt to verify the facts or assess the truth of his account.

Similarly, no evidence has been provided to back up the state's version of events.

The lawyer assigned to Mr Sobirov made no attempt to defend him.

False confessions

Human rights groups say the Uzbek authorities routinely force people to make false confessions, and they have described this trial as an attempt to cover up what they say was a massacre of civilians in Andijan.

In his account of events, Mr Sobirov also repeated again what the government has said many times about the supposed role of foreign journalists.

He said they had told the Akramist militants to organise a protest and advised them to start the military action quickly.

The Andijan unrest began on 12 May after supporters of 23 local businessmen - on trial for alleged Islamic extremism - broke into the town's jail and freed them. The armed men then occupied the town hall and a huge anti-government protest began.

Three of the Andijan businessmen - recaptured after being freed - are among the 15 defendants now being tried by the supreme court. Another three men are citizens of neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

As the trial opened, the New York-based group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), called on the US and the European Union to impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on Uzbekistan.

It released a report on Tuesday documenting a "brutal" security service crackdown in which local residents were allegedly forced to make false confessions that they belonged to militant organisations and that the Andijan protesters carried weapons.

See the 15 defendants appear in court


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