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Watchdog Urges Uzbekistan To Investigate Prison Death

6 January 2005 -- A U.S. democracy watchdog is calling on Uzbek authorities to conduct a transparent investigation into the recent suspicious death of an Uzbek prisoner.

Jennifer Windsor, director of Freedom House, released a statement yesterday saying that "Uzbek society needs to know the truth" about Samandar Umarov's death.

Earlier this week, two independent Uzbek rights groups called attention to the possible torture death of Umarov, who had been serving a 17-year prison term for belonging to an outlawed Islamic group.

Relatives said Umarov's body was returned to them with severe damage to his head.

Svetlana Artikova, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, said a preliminary autopsy suggested he died of a stroke. She said that prosecutors have opened an "additional" investigation into Umarov's death, but gave no further details.