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Activists Urge Investigation of Uzbek Massacre

May 13 marks four years since the violent suppression of a protest in Uzbekistan. Hundreds of people were killed in the incident when Uzbek authorities opened fire on demonstrators in the city of Andijan. In Moscow, a small group of demonstrators commemorated the tragedy with a protest at the Uzbek Embassy, urging the world community to demand an investigation into what some call the Andijan Massacre.

The handful of demonstrators in Moscow were outnumbered by police and journalists who gathered near the Uzbek Embassy, where guards in camouflage uniforms peered from behind the mission's heavy metal gates.

Daria Sobolova, a member of Russia's Memorial human rights organization, told VOA the Andijan demonstration gets smaller with each passing year, not because people have forgotten, but because they fear repression.

Soboleva says relatives of activists who demonstrate in Russia are persecuted in Uzbekistan. She adds that if an activist is not a citizen of Russia, he or she can be returned to Uzbekistan where they are imprisoned, or they simply disappear.

Organizer Bakhrom Khamroyev, head of the Association of Central Asian Political Emigrants in Moscow, says the event was meant as a protest against serious Uzbek human rights violations. He says these include torture, imprisonment or exile of opposition activists. Khamroyev is also calling on the United States, Russia and the European Union to demand a full investigation of the Andijan Massacre.

The activist says in the past four years, neither the European Union, the United States, nor Russia the have been able to demand a fair investigation and to provide a clear assessment of the Andijan Massacre. He says this gives Uzbek President Islam Karimov an excuse to continue repressive policies against his people.

Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed in the anti-government protest in 2005, which erupted after gunmen in Andijan freed a group of prisoners awaiting trial . Some estimates the death toll may have been higher. The government of Uzbekistan says most of the dead were terrorists or victims of terrorists. International human rights groups say most of those killed were victims of indiscriminate shooting by government forces.

Uzbekistan has rejected calls from the West for an independent investigation of the events in Andijan.