Uzbek rights activist Surat Ikramov told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service today that Fitrat Salohiddinov had died of torture while in prison in the eastern city of Andijon. It is not known when he died, but Ikramov said the prisoner's body was taken to his family in the capital, Tashkent, on November 12.
"Unfortunately it wasn't possible to talk with his relatives since officials from the antiterror department of the Interior Ministry are around," Ikramov said, adding that there was no telephone connection to the victim's relatives. "The fact that he was tortured to death is a simple truth. But they have buried him quickly" so there is no chance to examine the body, Ikramov said.
Salohiddinov was arrested seven years ago for alleged membership in the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The allegations surrounding his death come a week after a report issued by Human Rights Watch said torture is "endemic" to Uzbekistan criminal justice system. In the November 7 report, the rights watchdog urged the 10 independent experts making up the United Nations' antitorture panel to condemn Uzbekistan for violating a global ban on torture.
The UN Committee Against Torture met with Uzbek officials on November 9 and 12 in Geneva. The committee is expected to release its findings later this month.
The Uzbek government has also come under international scrutiny for its crackdown on dissidents, which intensified after the May 2005 violence in the eastern city of Andijon. Rights groups say hundreds of protesters died, but the government puts the figure at 187. It says many of those killed were security forces, and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence.