A court in Sweden has acquitted a couple who were accused of the attempted murder of exiled Islamic cleric Obidkhon Qori Nazarov, an opponent of the Uzbek government.
Nazarov has been in a coma since he was shot in the head near his home on February 22. (See Uzbek Islamic Leader Targeted by Hitman.)
In a July 26 ruling, the Ostersund district court said there was no reason to doubt the attack on Nazarov was politically motivated, but there was insufficient evidence to link the defendants to the crime.
At one court hearing on July 18, Swedish prosecutor Krister Petersson alleged that the assassination attempt was orchestrated by Uzbekistan’s secret service.
Bahodir Polatov and Nodira Aminova, a married couple from the western Uzbek city of Bukhara and currently living in Sweden, were arrested in May. They were accused of discovering Nazarov’s address, reconnoitring the area, renting a car, booking a hotel and renting an apartment to the man who allegedly carried out the attack.
Obidkhon Qori was a leading cleric in Uzbekistan in the 1990s, and his mosque in the capital Tashkent attracted Muslims who wanted to avoid the state-controlled version of religion. His reputation made him a target for the security services as they harassed and arrested independent preachers and their followers. In 1998, he and his family fled, and have been living as refugees in Sweden since 2006.
The Uzbek authorities still appear to fear Nazarov’s enduring popularity. His name has featured in a number of cases, most recently a 2011 trial in which a group of individuals were given long prison terms for alleged radical activities. Nazarov has denied any involvement in such cases.
This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.
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