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Uzbek Officials Claim Activist 'Invited' To Speak With Police

(RFE/RL) June 20, 2006 -- Uzbek officials today denied that independent human rights activist Yodgor Turlibekov has been arrested despite his continuing custody, saying he was merely "invited" to the police station for a "conversation."

Svetlana Ortiqova, a spokeswoman for Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office, suggested to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service today that the media was making an unwarranted "fuss" about the incident.

"Well, as a human rights activist, he might have said something somewhere," Ortiqova told RFE/RL. "Any state has a right to defend itself. When someone is invited for conversation, [people] immediately rear up, make a fuss, and say, 'He was arrested, detained.' Nothing of the sort. But any state has a right to invite anyone to law-enforcement agencies for conversation, so maybe they invited him."

Ortiqova also said that under current Uzbek law, citizens over 60 years of age who do not have criminal records cannot be detained simply on suspicion of having committed a crime.

Independent websites reported on June 17 that 70-year-old Turlibekov was taken into custody at his apartment in the southern Uzbek city of Karshi on June 16.

Surat Ikramov, the head of Center for Human Rights Initiatives in Tashkent, told RFE/RL that no charges have been brought against Turlibekov, who has been in police custody since his detention.

He called that a violation of Uzbek law prohibiting authorities from keeping someone in custody more than 72 hours without bringing formal charges.

(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service)