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Sanjar Umarov
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Uzbek government continues its repressive policies and is still detaining many rights activists despite the recent release of political prisoner Sanjar Umarov, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

In a statement on December 1, the New York-based rights group called on the international community -- in particular the European Union and the United States -- to continue to press Uzbek officials to free political prisoners.

Holly Cartner, HRW's director for Europe and Central Asia, said HRW was happy about the release of Umarov, "who should have never been imprisoned in the first place."

Umarov, a prominent businessman, founded the opposition Sunshine Uzbekistan Coalition early in 2005. He was arrested later that year on embezzlement and tax-evasion charges and in 2006 a court sentenced him to 14 years in jail.

Umarov has denied any wrongdoing.

On November 15, after serving four years of a seven-year prison sentence, Umarov was released under a government amnesty. HRW said that on November 21 Umarov was reunited with his wife and children in the United States.

The group said Umarov was released in poor health and has not yet been acquitted of the charges against him, which HRW said are politically motivated.
Nigina Bakhrieva
Rights campaigners in Bishkek say a Tajik human rights activist was not allowed to enter Kyrgyzstan today, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Aziza Abdyrasulova, chairwoman of the Kylym Shamy (Torch of the Century) human rights center, told RFE/RL that border guards at Bishkek airport did not allow Nigina Bakhrieva to enter the country, saying they had an order barring her from entering until 2010.

Abdrasulova said Bakhrieva might have been added to a "black list" because of her work in monitoring the situation with human rights in Kyrgyzstan's south, in particular a report she was preparing about the arrests and subsequent sentencing of dozens of people in the southern village of Nookat in October 2008.

Nookat residents had taken to the streets in protest after they were denied the right to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan in a local stadium.

Dozens were sentenced for "organizing unsanctioned mass gatherings that led to mass disorder."

Human rights activists consider the Nookat case a politically motivated move by Kyrgyz authorities against Muslims.

Two Russian human rights activists, Vitaly Ponomaryov and Bahrom Hamroev, were deported from Kyrgyzstan's south on separate occasions earlier this year.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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