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Uzbeks Investigate Alleged Prison Gang Rape

TASHKENT -- A criminal case has been opened into allegations that an Uzbek woman and her sisters were gang-raped in a Tashkent jail, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The alleged victims' brother, Abdusamat Soatov, told RFE/RL that he received a letter this week from Tashkent prosecutors that said the investigation was predicated on a complaint that he had filed.

The mailing said prosecutors were looking into a charge of "attempted rape," which carries a jail sentence of three to seven years.

Abdurakhmon Tashanov, of the Uzbek rights organization Ezgulik (Benevolence), told RFE/RL that he welcomes the news of an investigation into a crime that frequently goes unpunished.

Tashanov said that even if there are no convictions, a degree of justice will have been achieved and the action will help to prosecute other cases of violence in jails.

Raykhon Soatova, 28, and her sisters Khosiyat and Nargiza were arrested on May 9 during a physical altercation with the alleged mistress of Nargiza's husband.

They were sentenced to between six and seven years in prison on hooliganism and robbery charges.

Soatov had told RFE/RL that during a visit to prison on November 26 with his mother, Raykhon told him that she and her sisters were abused and gang-raped after their arrest.

In December, Raykhon gave birth in the prison hospital to a baby girl after a pregnancy that she said was a result of the assault.

Contacted by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, both the Tashkent prosecutor's office and the local Interior Ministry branch declined to comment on the case.

Soatov has said he sent nearly 30 complaints to President Islam Karimov's administration and letters to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, and regional prosecutors.