The New York-based Human Rights Watch has issued a statement
calling for the immediate and unconditional release of a former RFE/RL Uzbek Service correspondent who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on "politically motivated" charges.
Igor Vorontsov, Uzbekistan researcher for Human Rights Watch
, said that the conviction of Salijon Abdurahmonov
was "an affront to human rights and free speech in Uzbekistan.
Vorontsov added that Abdurahmonov "often criticized local authorities, including law enforcement" and that "he is being punished for his work."
Last week, an Uzbek court found Abdurahmonov guilty of possession of marijuana and opium, charges which he denies.
RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin condemned Abdurahmonov's conviction
, saying that the sentencing "on such spurious allegations is an outrage against due process." Gedmin called the case "yet another example of the Uzbek government's drive to wipe out any vestige of free speech and independent criticism in that country."
Abdurahmonov was an RFE/RL correspondent until 2005, when the Tashkent bureau was closed following the bloody crackdown against antigovernment protesters in Andijon in May of that year.