UK Embassy employer charged with illegal gatherings and “extremists’ training activity”
Today, July 15, Criminal Court of Mirzo Ulugbek district of Tashkent criminal court found Leonid Kudryavtsev, UK Embassy in Tashkent’s Press and Public Relations department staffer, guilty in violation of article 201 of the Uzbek Administrative Code for “violating the order of holding meetings, rallies, marches or demonstrations,” and fined 80 times the minimum wage (UZS 3,978,800 or USD 2,300).
Judge S.N. Ashermatov, known for his participation in the case against VOA journalist Abdumalik Boboyev, decided that an appeal from the two so-called human rights activists, who are in fact true posers — Olga Krasnova and Konstantin Stepanov, is enough.
These two are well known for picketing in front of the UK Embassy in Tashkent against Craig Murray and his diplomatic activity, as well as sueing Freedom House, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (Общество Прав Человека Узбекистана — ОПЧУ), and other independent human rights activists of Uzbekistan; in the human rights society known as whistlers.
Krasnova and Stepanov claimed that trainings, meetings and other kinds of events at the UK Embassy with participation of human rights activists were intended to train future extremists and God-knows-whom.
According to Elena Urlaeva, Tashkent-based human rights activist, herself and her colleagues were not allowed to go inside the court, among them Abdullo Tajiboy-ogli, Vladimir Khusainov, Ludmila Brosalina, Adelaida Kim, Tatyana Dovlatova, Viktoria Bazhenova, Bakhodir Namazov, as well as representatives of independent mass media.
These activists were protesting in front of the court with posters, such as “Hands off from Britain!” (see the picture)
True posers Krasnova and Stepanov, accompanied by another ‘human rights activist’ Yusuf Imamov, were nervous seeing people taking pitures of them — the latter started calling Elena Urlaeva’s husband to “influence on Elena [to stop taking pictures and protesting].”
“We, independent human rights activist of Uzbekistan, think that Uzbek authorities threaten UK Embassy staff with these kind of provocative cases and activities of human beings such as Krasnova, Stepanov and Imamov,” says Urlaeva.
“This is done to get more millions of [Uzbek] sums,” she says.
While it’s understandable that authorities are nervous about diplomatic representations of foreign countries carrying projects on advocating human rights and democratic values, it’s not yet clear for me why it was local staff to be charged for embassy activities.
According to the appeal by Krasnova and Stepanov, “For a number of years [Leonid] Kudryavtsev, who claims to be a liason officer for communicating with those who claim to be human rights activists, on behalf of the UK Embassy uses them to create visibility of a human rights activity.”
“Basically, UK Embassy, with Kudryavtsev’s help, is being used as a training camp where diferent kind of extremist elements, [Elena] Urlaeva in particular, [...] are being taught and trained for some planned actions.”
Appeal by Krasnova and Stepanov.
Kudryavtsev himself is outraged: “We explain local rights activists the essence of local laws and international covenants ratified by Uzbekistan. These are embassy events and I participate in them absolutely as a representative of the Press and Public Relations department. It’s very strange that I am on trial.”
As for now Urlaeva and activists call European Union to throw their weight behind UK Embassy and Leonid Kudryavtsev. I join them and ask those who can influence on the Uzbek government to explain that there is nothing illegal in explaining norms of law to people. Finally, there is nothing illegal in doing your job, as Leonid did. This shows that Uzbek authorities do ot have enought balls to charge the diplomatic representation — only Uzbek citizens with no right for justice.
Photos provided by Elena Urlaeva.