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Relatives of an inmate who died in an Uzbek prison say they believe he was beaten to death, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The body of Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov, 48, was given to his relatives in the Andijon region on January 11. According to his death certificate, Raimokhunov died of a heart attack on January 8 in the Jasliq (Youth) prison in southwestern Uzbekistan.

His relatives told RFE/RL on January 13 that officials forced them to bury him quickly after receiving the body and without allowing an independent autopsy to be conducted.

Raimokhunov's older brother, Abdurashid Raimokhunov, told RFE/RL that the last time he phoned his brother some three weeks ago he did not have any health complaints. He was also in good health when his wife visited him last summer.

But Abdurashid Raimokhunov told RFE/RL that he had noticed a fresh bruise on his brother's forehead.

In the autumn of 2009, Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov complained to his brother that a prison guard beat him on the head with a truncheon. When Abdurashid Raimokhunov filed an official complaint with the prosecutor's office a short time later, officials denied that his brother had been mistreated in prison.

Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov is the second case in two weeks in which the relatives of a deceased inmate allege that his death in Jasliq prison was the result of beatings by prison guards.

In November, a number of prisoners at Jasliq prison held a hunger strike to demand the release of their "Muslim brothers" from special disciplinary cells. On January 4, Ulugbek Gaforov, 32, a former Jasliq prisoner who later joined the hunger strikers, died after being transferred to another prison.

Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov's relatives say he also could have been among those hunger strikers in prison and was killed by officials for taking part.

A father of four, Raimokhonov was given a 12-year sentence in February 2001 after being found guilty of being a member of the Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir group.

His relatives told RFE/RL they are wary of making any further comments about Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov. They said they won't demand an investigation into the circumstances of his death because they fear it may have a negative affect on one of Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov's brothers, Abdulvosit, who has been serving a prison term on the same charges since 1999 in the Zangiota prison near Tashkent.

Abdulvosit repudiated Hizb ut-Tahrir's ideology and filed a petition with President Islam Karimov's office seeking a pardon. But his request was rejected and his prison term extended by 3 1/2 years.

Human rights groups report that thousands of observant Muslims have been jailed in Uzbekistan, especially after the 1999 bombings in Tashkent.

Amnesties by the Uzbek parliament usually don't include prisoners who have been sentenced for membership of extremist religious organizations.

The Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan group, which monitors religious persecution in Uzbekistan, recorded at least 39 deaths in 2010 of prisoners who had reportedly been physically abused.

Surat Ikramov, head of the group, commented to RFE/RL that for many Uzbek inmates the only way to get out of prison is in a coffin.
Gulzhan Ergalieva
The chief editor of Kazakhstan's leading opposition newspaper, "Svoboda Slova" (Freedom of Speech), has resigned.

Gulzhan Ergalieva told RFE/RL today her resignation was motivated by the current campaign for a referendum to prolong Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's term in office until 2020.

She said she has found a new chief editor, Almaty-based journalist Yevgeny Rakhimzhanov, and given up her ownership rights to the paper.

Ergalieva, 59, founded the newspaper in 2005 and has served as its chief editor since then.

"My resignation is the only way to save the newspaper and to ensure the safety of journalists working for 'Svoboda Slova,'" said Ergalieva, one of Kazakhstan's most prominent opposition journalists.

In 2001, a group of masked men broke into her Almaty apartment, beat and tied her up before torturing her husband in front of her for several hours, leaving him handicapped. The attackers were never found.

Ergalieva and her colleagues say the attack was organized by officials in retaliation for her critical articles about the country's political, social, and economic situation.

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-- RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

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