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Arrested, Missing Uzbek Journalists Felt Threatened

The nephew of President Islam Karimov (pictured), an independent journalist, is still missing (ITAR-TASS) PRAGUE, September 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A Swedish journalist specialized in Central Asian affairs says an independent Uzbek reporter who has gone missing, Jamshid Karimov, recently wrote her to say he feared he might be arrested.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Elin Jonsson said she heard similar concerns from another independent Uzbek journalist who was detained a few days after.

Jamshid Karimov disappeared after visiting her mother at Jizzakh hospital on September 12. His relatives believe he was arrested. Ulugbek Khaidarov was arrested on September 14, also in Jizzakh.

Jamshid Karimov is the nephew of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. He has been working as an independent journalist for years and has been very critical of his uncle's policies.

Jonsson says both Jamshid Karimov and Khaidarov both said that "the authorities in Jizzakh had recently started being very tough with those journalists specialized in civic rights that were still in town. They reported hearing rumors saying they would be 'neutralized.' They said sources had informed them that Ulugbek [Khaidarov] would be arrested and that Jamshid would be sent to a psychiatric hospital, or something similar."

Khaidarov's sister, Nortoji Khaidarova, says a woman approached her brother at a bus stop and put an envelope containing $400 in his pocket. Khaidarov threw the envelope away, but four security officers picked it up and placed him under arrest.

In comments reported by the independent information website on September 20, Khaidarova said the official investigating her brother's case told her he had "confessed to everything" and would be brought before court within days.

Khaidarova said the official told her brother could face between five and 10 years in jail.

The media watchdogs Reporters Without Borders and Committee To Protect Journalists have condemned Khaidarov's arrest and expressed concern at Jamshid Karimov's disappearance.