Fatima Mukadyrova’s trial on Thursday frustrates her own quest for justice.
Locked in a defendant’s metal cage in a Tashkent court, the 62-year-old was formerly accused of “infringement of constitutional order” and “fomenting racial and religious hatred”.
But a crying Mukadyrova told the court why she believes she is really on trial.
“I lost my son. He was killed in the prison of Jaslik. I was arrested for all the letters demanding that his murderers were punished.”
Her case coincides with a visit from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is reassessing its lending to Uzbekistan for human rights reasons.
Outrage at torture
The death of Muzafar Avazov in western Uzbekistan in 2002 triggered a wave of international denunciations of torture in government prisons, despite the central Asian republic’s close ties with Washington.
Last year, Mukadyrova displayed post-mortem photographs of her son – showing smashed teeth and nails torn off. His body had been cut, bruised and scalded.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov
Despite criticism from a UN torture investigator, Western diplomats and human rights bodies, the authorities denied he had been tortured.
They said Avazov, jailed for his radical Islamic views, had died after other inmates threw hot tea at him.
Rearresting bereaved mother
Mukadyrova was previously arrested in September and sentenced to three years in jail before being freed on probation after suffering a heart attack. She was rearrested in October.
Wearing a traditional bright Uzbek shawl and national dress, she tersely answered “yes” or “no” to the judge’s questions, while several policemen described finding “extremist literature” at her home.
The judge said the defendant was accused of “setting up an underground cell of women propagating Hizb al-Tahrir ideas”.
Hizb al-Tahrir, banned in predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan, is a group aiming to set up a pan-Islamic state run by religious law.
Human Rights Watch estimates there are at least 6000 political and religious prisoners in Uzbekistan. It has reported more than 10 deaths from torture in jails since November 2003.