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Uzbek Opposition Leaders, Rights Activists Seek Turaeva's Release

( January 18, 2007 -- Several Uzbek opposition leaders and rights campaigners have called upon western governments and international organizations to secure the release of doctor and rights activist Gulbahor Turaeva.

In a letter quoted today by the independent website, the signatories say they fear the 44-year-old Turaeva may be ill-treated in custody.

They urge the international community "to get in touch with Uzbek officials, at home and abroad, and demand the immediate release of Mrs. Turaeva."

Turaeva was detained at a border checkpoint on January 14 while returning home from Osh, in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Reports suggest she faces charges of attempting to smuggle forbidden opposition publications into Uzbekistan.

Turaeva is a physician and rights activist from Andijon, the eastern Uzbek city that witnessed a bloody military crackdown in May 2005.

She was one of the few eyewitnesses who reported on the tragic events to Western reporters.

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