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Dad of 4 Alleged Uzbek Terrorists Worried

For Yahoo News

By Burt Herman, Associated Press Writer

August 3, 2004

Yangi Tolqin Kolkhoz, Uzbekistan - Two of Qasym Yusupov's sons are dead and two are on trial, jailed after a wave of violence earlier this year allegedly carried out by the same group behind last week's suicide bombings targeting the U.S. and Israeli embassies.

Yusupov, who himself spent four months in jail for possession of drugs he said were planted on him after the first attacks, now worries about what will happen to his sons in custody. The trial was abruptly postponed Monday, and human rights activists allege some of the 15 suspects - who have all pleaded guilty at a trial where no evidence has been presented - were tortured into confessing. 

"I'm worried, will they shoot him or kill him?" Yusupov said of his 24-year-old son Furkat, allegedly a key member of the extremist group behind the attacks this year who faces up to the death penalty for charges including terrorism, religious extremism and murder. 

President Islam Karimov's authoritarian regime has angered fundamentalist Muslims for a crackdown on those who choose to worship outside state-run mosques, and thousands have been jailed since the 1990s in a bid to stem extremism. Critics allege the campaign has backfired, creating more opponents to the government. 

At Uzbekistan's Supreme Court on Monday, Judge Bakhtiyor Jamalov said the trial that opened last week was being put off until an unspecified date due to a defense attorney's illness. It was the first hearing since Friday's attacks at the embassies and the Uzbek chief prosecutor's office, which left six dead including the three bombers. 

Furkat Yusupov, the first of the defendants to testify at the trial, said last week that he was delivering suicide-bomber belts to would-be attackers when police stopped his car by chance and arrested him March 28 - the start of several days of violence that rattled this Central Asian nation and included the region's first-ever suicide bombings. 

Yusupov said he traveled in winter 2003 to Pakistan's South Waziristan region to help establish a training camp, where terrorists were trained on how to bomb buildings and use airplanes as weapons, as well as how to fight and build detonators. Prosecutors earlier said al-Qaida instructors were present at the camp. 

The militants were told to target Western organizations, such as hotels and embassies, to avenge the conflicts in Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq, Yusupov said. 

Yusupov told the court he was treated well in custody, and seemed to be speaking naturally. "I'll accept any punishment, please forgive me," he said. His older brother Rakhim is also on trial. 

But the 64-year-old Yusupov patriarch, Qasym, who was only released a week ago from prison, said he heard his sons had been tortured in custody. A U.N. envoy has found torture is systematic in the country's prisons, and Uzbek officials say they realize the problem and have proposed a long-delayed action plan to improve the situation. 

Surat Ikramov, head of the Uzbekistan-based Independent Human Rights Initiatives group, said some of the defendant's relatives had told him suspects were tortured and beaten unconscious. 

"I'm 100 percent convinced they all have been subjected to torture," Ikramov said, noting the suspects also had no access to lawyers during the investigation. 

Qasym Yusupov, who wears the neatly trimmed beard and shaved head of a religious Muslim, shuddered when asked of his own experiences in prison, saying "it's no use" to talk about it. Still, he said his body ached from long periods spent in all-concrete basements where the most sensitive suspects are held. 

He said authorities repeatedly moved him during his four months in custody to avoid prison inspections by the International Committee for the Red Cross. 

His two youngest sons, Shukhrat and Shakir, both died in the March violence that Uzbek authorities said killed 33 militants, 10 police and four bystanders. The family's middle sons, Furkat and Rakhim, are on trial. 

Yusupov's two oldest sons are also jailed for alleged weapons possession but not accused of terrorism. Their father alleged Kalashnikov bullets and explosives had been planted at their homes. 

"'If I want, I'll find a tank in your house,'" he said he was told by the plainclothes police who came to arrest him March 29 in this village about 25 miles south of Tashkent, surrounded by fields bristling with cotton. 

Yusupov said that Furkat had been absent from the home for the last several years, and that another son left several months ago claiming he was headed to Russia to work. "How could I know what they were really doing?" Yusupov asked. 

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