President Karimov is expected to visit the Czech Republic on February 21. Human rights activists are preparing a protest action in Prague during his two-day visit.
The activists are hoping to attract attention from the public and from politicians in Europe to the gross human rights violations occuring in Uzbekistan.
The leader of the Fiery Hearts Club, and Uzbek human rights activist living in exile, Mutabar Tajibaeva, told Uznews.net that she and a number of her colleagues are preparing to hold a protest during the president's visit and submit a number of demands to Karimov and his government.
“We demand that President Karimov release all political prisoners, ensure that NGOs are able to function freely in the country, and to uphold the freedom of speech,” says Tajibaeva on the eve of her visit to Prague.
Among other demands that the human rights workers are planning to submit are: the cessation of the use of torture of prisoners and detainees; and the carrying out an international investigation into the events that took place in Andijan in 2005,
|We demand that President Karimov release all political prisoners."|
with the underlying aim of bringing those responsible for the mass killings to justice.
Karimov’s visit to the Czech Republic coincides with the two-year anniversary of an assassination attempt of the prominent Uzbek imam Obid-kori Nazarov.
On February 22 a hired assassin shot the imam in the head as he was leaving his house in the northern Swedish town of Strömsund. He has since been in coma.
Tajibaeva and her colleagues are planning to express their outrage over this assassination attempt and other politically motivated murders that Karimov’s regime is suspected of being involved in.
The Uzbek state media announced that Karimov and his Czech counterpart Miloš Zeman are scheduled to discuss visa regulations between the two countries, the possibility of Uzbek students studying at universities in the Czech Republic, and trade relations.
The Czech press has been critical about their president hosting a dictator and pointed out that Zeman's primary motivations are economic.
Karel Schwarzenberg, the head of foreign affairs committee in the lower chamber of Czech parliament, said in his interview with Prague Post that Karimov’s visit is “an example of new kind of diplomacy where (economic) interests and money prevail.”
Schwarzenberg was Czech’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2007-2009 and again in 2010-2013, and is known for being highly critical of regimes that violate human rights.
The Central Asia researcher at the Human Rights Watch, Steve Swerdlow, speaking to Radio Freedom said that such visits as the upcoming trip to Prague provide legitimacy to Karimov’s repressive regime.
Swerdlow suggested that Zeman remember his country’s recent history when in 2001 former president Václav Havel received Uzbek opposition leader Mukhammad Salikh who was then arrested in Prague at the request of the Uzbek government.
Havel said then that Salikh’s arrest was a mistake and that he would not be extradited to Uzbekistan but rather returned to Norway where he had previously received political asylum.
“In my opinion,” said President Havel at that time, “ this (arrest) should not have happened but it did and he should be returned to Norway as soon as possible. This is very sad, this sheds a negative light on our Republic.”
Steve Swerdlow pointed out that the current Czech President is scheduled to receive Islam Karimov at the same Prague castle where Havel met with Salikh.