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Anti-AIDS Campaigner Serving 7-Year Sentence In Uzbekistan

Maksim Popov

Maksim Popov

Evidence has emerged that an anti-AIDS campaigner in Uzbekistan was sentenced to seven years in prison after authorities deemed his brochure incompatible with local traditions.

Twenty-eight-year-old Maksim Popov, who heads anti-AIDS nonprofit Izis, was arrested in January 2009 and sentenced in September.

But details of the sentencing, in a country where information is tightly controlled, have come to light only recently.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports that Popov is currently serving his jail term in Uzbekistan's Navoi prison.

Izis is funded by a number of foreign donors, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Britain's Department for International Development.

The Russian-language booklet at issue, "HIV and AIDS Today," gives detailed information about preventive measures to avoid the deadly disease, including the importance of sterile syringes for drug users and ways to practice safe sex. It explains, for example, how to use condom.

In a society where discussing sex is taboo, the court found the brochure amounted to a how-to guide for young people to have sex and use drugs.

The court declared the booklet's contents "illegal" and ordered all copies seized by police and immediately destroyed.

Strongman President Islam Karimov, who has ruled for more than 20 years, takes a dim view of dissent and authorities are highly suspicious of even apolitical NGOs.

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