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Uzbekistan Releases a Political Prisoner, but Rights Abuses Continue

Uzbekistan -- Uzbek national flag

Uzbekistan -- Uzbek national flag

The release of Alisher Karamatov, Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Steve Swerdlow says, shouldn't obscure a crackdown against activists and journalists in Uzbekistan that began earlier this year.

A statement published by the rights group today documents several recent arbitrary acts.

In January, an Uzbek court added a 5-year extension to the sentence of Muhammad Bekjanov, former editor of the political opposition newspaper "Erk," only days before the expiration of his original 13-year prison sentence. Bekjanov, who has been in jail since 1999, and Yusuf Ruzimuradov, another Uzbek reporter behind bars, have been in prison longer than any other journalist worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a case in February, Uzbekistan's government-controlled bar association affirmed a lower commission’s ruling to disbar Ruhiddin Komilov, a leading human rights lawyer.

In March, authorities at Tashkent International airport deported the BBC’s Natalia Antelava and Viktoriya Ivleva of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta upon their arrival in the country.

HRW counts 10 human rights defenders in Uzbekistan who are currently "in prison for no reason other than their legitimate human rights work." These include Solijon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist from the remote Karakalpakstan region who free-lanced for RFE/RL's Uzbek service, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 on fabricated charges of narcotics possession and distribution.