Tashkent rights body ousts “totalitarian” chairman

Former chairman of the the Committee to Protect an Individual’s Rights, Marat Zahidov; photo: epochtimes.ru
On 12 February the Committee to Protect an Individual’s Rights held a meeting in Tashkent at which members decidedly ousted “totalitarian” chairman Marat Zahidov.

It was announced in advance that Marat Zahidov, an eccentric and scandalous activist, would be ousted at the meeting.

Tashkent-based human rights activist and the committee’s lawyer Ruhitdin Kamilov expressed the widespread sentiment: “It is high time we ended Marat Zahidov’s totalitarian regime.”

All heads of regional branches of the committee expressed a vote of no confidence in Zahidov and openly talked about his rudeness towards subordinates, embezzlement of grand funds and refusal to get involved in human rights activities.

Marat Zahidov headed the committee since its establishment in 1996.

His colleagues said he had not been involved in human rights activities and solving the organisation’s problems in the past decade and had not held a single meeting or had not presented a single report on the use of grant funds.

Kamilov said this contradicted the law as public organisations should present financial reports to members and state bodies.

As a result, committee members did not have money to work, could not rent offices and received people wherever they could, investing their own money in human rights activities and when they did not have money they asked people who sought their help for money.

Committee without Zahidov

Ravshan Gapparov, 55, was elected a new chairman of the committee. He headed its branch in Horezm Region. Ruhitdin Kamilov was elected his deputy.

Gapparov graduated from the Tashkent Irrigation Institute and worked as a constructor.

Without Zahidov, members believe, the committee should rid the organisation of negative qualities, establish uninterrupted funding for its work and defend Uzbek citizens’ rights.

Ensuring funding is the new leaders’ main objective.

While looking for sponsors, the committee intends to demand financial reports from its previous leaders.

Members believe Zahidov received funds worth $1.5m from donors but they do not know where he spent it all.

They intend to pass on this information to police to return the money to the organisation.

“Partners will support us. They give money for activities specified in the charter not for personal enrichment,” Gapparov said of donors.

Zahidov disagrees

Zahidov, who is now in Frankfurt in Germany, said in an interview with Uznews.net that the meeting had been held in breach of the committee’s charter and the new leadership was illegitimate.

Committee members at a meeting on 12 February
“Imagine I return home and continue to work. What can they do?” he asked.

In response to accusations of embezzlement, he said that when he was a student and Komsomol activist he and his friends misspent membership fees of their university mates.

When his father learnt about this, he reprimanded Zahidov to an extent that he had given up using someone else’s money for ever.

“Since then I do not look into someone else’s fridge,” he said.

He said since 1996 the committee had not received grant funds and its members had worked on a voluntary basis.

He said that, if he was caught embezzling a single euro, international organisations, including the International Organisation for Human Rights, would have stopped dealing with him. He was elected its vice-president four times since then.

The international organisation’s website lists Zahidov as secretary general of its Uzbek branch.

$1.5m? – Slander!

Zahidov explained the rumours about his embezzlement of $1.5m. He claimed that once in Germany he exchanged $1,500 for euros but kept the receipt and took it to Tashkent.

Committee members, he said, were not happy with him for a long time and stole this receipt from his flat to change the figure from 1,500 to 1.5 million and presented it as evidence of Zahidov’s receipt of a grant worth $1.5.

Zahidov believes the initiator of the rebellion is Kamilov who was hired as a lawyer last year.

Zahidov knew about the meeting and that he was going to be ousted but did not pay attention to it, believing that no-one would take the new leadership seriously.

His confidence was grounded.

During the interview with Uznews.net, Zahidov received a call from the Uzbek Justice Ministry.

The caller told him about the meeting and asked how they should respond to it.

Having reprimanded the ministry official for the ministry’s acceptance of the committee’s notification about the meeting, Zahidov repeated that the meeting and its decision were illegitimate.