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Exile Uzbeks suspect regime for imam attack

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10:07 CEST+02:00
After three people were remanded into custody, of which two were Uzbek citizens, suspicions that the attempted murder against the imam Obid Nazarov in February was politically motivated are growing among Uzbeks in Sweden.

“We would never have thought this could happen in Sweden, in Europe,” said an Uzbek man from Nazarov's congregation in Strömsund in northern Sweden.

He said he was certain from the day of the attempted murder. And especially since a married Uzbek couple were remanded into custody for being accessory to the crime, he is absolutely certain that the regime had a hand in what happened.

Several Uzbeks in Strömsund saw an unknown person move around the area the week before the attempted murder. The Uzbek told TT that he is upset that the community “dropped its guard” in Sweden.

“They have sent people before to kill those in opposition, for example in Russia, and now it has happened here as well,” he said.

Nazarov is the religious leader for the Uzbek community in Strömsund, some 200 people who have escaped oppression and religious persecution.

“He is our imam and he is very important to us. Everyone listens to him,” said the man to TT.

The imam fled to Sweden in 2006, after the Uzbek government had filed a warrant for his arrest with Interpol, on suspicion of terrorism.

“It is ridiculous, but for the Uzbek regime freedom fighters are terrorists, journalists are terrorists,” said Nazarov in an interview with Radio Free Europe in April 2006

Nazarov is described as very strictly religious, which was a thorn in the side of the Uzbek regime. He was accused of religious extremism. But Nazarov, who has openly criticised the regime, has said that he is not after an Islamic state.

“All we want is that the thousands of Muslims who want to be able to pray openly and wear a head cloth be allowed to do that,” he said in the interview.

Kudrat Babadjanov, an Uzbek journalist living in Stockholm, is certain that the regime is behind the incident. Films produced by the national broadcaster in Uzbekistan have mentioned both Nazarov and Babadjanov in connection to exile Uzbeks “portraying the country in a negative light”.

”My mother watched it, called me and asked me to stop writing. They are worried for me,” said Babadjanov to TT.

According to expert on former Soviet counties, Torgny Hinnemo, the strong Uzbek community in Strömsund could be the reason the imam was targeted.

“This imam is very important to the Uzbeks in Strömsund. It was on its way to becoming a place in Sweden where more and more Uzbeks were gathering, retaining their culture and religiosity. Perhaps the regime wanted to prevent this from happening,” he told TT.

Nazarov, who was shot in the head in February, miraculously survived the attack, but remains in coma, three months after the incident.

TT/The Local/rm

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