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Uzbekistan: Cleric Summoned To Court, Rights Group Critical

Tashkent, 25 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - An Uzbek Islamic cleric, fighting the government in a civil suit, was summoned to a Tashkent court and charged under the criminal code.

Reuters says Abid Khan Nazarov was charged Wednesday with slander and inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred, but was not detained.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Watch Helsinki group in Uzbekistan said yesterday the criminal charges were a throw-back to the country's Soviet past. About 15 people from a group of the cleric's supporters, who gathered outside the court, were reportedly briefly detained by police.

Nazarov is suing the government over an eviction two years ago. A court hearing earlier this month sparked a rare show of opposition with some 300 of Nazarov's supporters gathering outside the court.

President Islam Karimov has come under international criticism for stifling dissent. Earlier yesterday, however, Karimov urged lawmakers to be more courageous in reporting allegations of human rights violations in Uzbekistan.