Uzbekistan to allow repentant former extremists to return home

By Maksim Yeniseyev


Militants from Imam Bukhari Jamaat pose with weapons captured from Afghan government forces in Faryab Province in this photo distributed Telegram on September 20. [File]

TASHKENT -- Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed a resolution allowing the legal return home of citizens who were misled into joining militant and terrorist groups abroad.

Under the resolution, which was signed by Mirziyoyev on September 19, a special inter-agency commission starting November 1 will investigate the cases of Uzbek citizens who went to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The commission will have the right to declare a citizen free of criminal liability if he or she acknowledges his/her actions and shows sincere remorse. Former militants will have to disclose crimes committed by their former organisations.

The resolution notes that rehabilitated extremists will receive social and legal assistance as well as help in finding work. Rehabilitation will be provided only once in a lifetime -- if a rehabilitated person violates the law again, he or she will no longer be eligible for assistance.


Sherzod Jurayev, 26, of Ishtikhan District, Samarkand Province, fought in Syria as part of the pro-IS extremist group Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad and under field commander Abu Saloh, a native of Kyrgyzstan, according to an Uzbek TV report broadcast earlier in 2018. He is shown in custody next to a photo of his former commander. [File]


A sniper from Imam Bukhari Jamaat, an Uzbek militant group fighting in Syria and Afghanistan, is pictured in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, in this photo distributed on Telegram September 20. A new Uzbek government resolution will help repentant members of militant organisations return home but will not apply to those who committed terrorism, terror financing or other serious crimes. [File]

In the resolution, Uzbekistan announced it had rehabilitated more than 18,000 citizens in 2017 who had previously fallen under the influence of extremists, terrorists and prohibited organisations. More than 10,000 of them received assistance in finding work or setting up their own businesses.

Chipping away at extremist forces

The resolution will forgive those who were deceived into joining extremist networks, including those who by mistake stored extremist materials on their telephones or computers.

"For example, the Telegram and WhatsApp messaging apps automatically store all images sent by anyone to a group chat or a channel," Batyrbek Ablyazov, a resident of Tashkent, told Caravanserai.

"In previous years, there were a number of cases when [travellers] were detained at the border for extremist materials on their telephones and sent to jail," he said.

"Prior to now, extremists never had any opportunity to travel to their homeland legally," Tashkent-based political scientist Umid Asatullayev told Caravanserai.

"Many might have wanted to return, but they understood that the way back was closed. They only became hardened and radicalised," he said, adding that many will now have hope of returning home, which will in turn cause extremist forces to "melt away".

Previously, militants who returned home faced trial under two articles of Uzbekistan's criminal code: one covering mercenary activity and the other for taking part in actions related to terrorist activity, according to Tashkent lawyer Muslima Khakimova.

"A combatant could receive up to 20 years' imprisonment," she told Caravanserai.

"The opportunity for forgiveness in cases of co-operation with the investigation existed but only if the extremist had not committed any crimes and had named his accomplices," she said.

Serious offenders excluded

The new amnesty will not apply to the ideological or spiritual leaders of prohibited organisations, which are to be delineated under a new procedure effective November 1.

Militants who were involved in combat or who committed sabotage, terror financing or terrorism itself will not be forgiven.

"I would not like this humane initiative turned into a threat to the country," Mavlon Yakubov, a resident of Tashkent, told Caravanserai.

"It is necessary to separate very carefully the truly repentant from the hard-core extremists," he said. "Maybe it is necessary to set up a rehabilitation centre and hold those returning under guard initially, collect their statements and do some psychological work with them."

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4 Comment(s)

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I think that it is wrong to give amnesty to people who kill others and after put them in prison. I think it will be better to cut them up and give their organs to people in need and save lives. Do you think that children, wives parents of those who were killed during service by these jackals will forgive them? If they will give rights to soldiers that survived attacks and free them from responsibility they will be able to get all the information about them and bury them alive (author means terrorists). I do not want to be against politics but I am against amnesty for these jackals.


Let there be peace


I hope there will not be a war in Uzbekistan after this.....


From one point it is a correct resolution. If other countries will adapt such resolution hands of terrorism shall shorten. It would be helpful if they will organize two-three month special courses for former misguided militants that will teach them to love their nation, to become more patriotic.