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Oppositionist Pleads Not Guilty In Uzbek Court

25 January 2006 -- An Uzbek opposition activist whose organization was highly critical of the government's bloody crackdown against demonstrators eight months ago reportedly pleaded not guilty to economic crimes at her trial today in Tashkent.

Nodira Khidoyatova, who works for the Sunshine Uzbekistan group, faces charges of money laundering and other economic wrongdoing.

Khidoyatova's supporters claim the charges are politically motivated.

AP quoted Khidoyatova's sister, Nigara Khidoyatova, as saying Nodira today pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Her defense lawyer, Oleg Babenko, confirmed that the trial began today, but gave no details.

It is the second time in recent months that Uzbek authorities have prosecuted Sunshine Uzbekistan members. In October, the group's chairman, Sandjar Umarov, was arrested and charged with membership of a criminal group. He also faced charges of economic crimes.