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Human Rights Watch Criticizes Uzbekistan

(RFE/RL) June 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) - The U.S.-headquartered Human Rights Watch group today criticized Uzbekistan for sentencing two rights campaigners to lengthy prison terms and arresting another last week.

On June 15, a court in Yangiyer sentenced two members of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan -- Azamjon Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov -- to nine years in jail each on blackmailing charges that HRW says "appear to be a politically motivated effort to stop their human rights work."

HRW says the sentencing brings to at least 11 the number of rights activists known to have been convicted in Uzbekistan this year.

On June 16, human rights campaigner Yodgor Turlibekov was arrested in the city of Qarshi and preliminarily charged with "physical, verbal, or written offenses" against President Islam Karimov.

HRW says those developments show that "Uzbek authorities are again trying to silence dissent by prosecuting human rights defenders."