Relatives of jailed Uzbek human rights activist Alisher Karomatov say that he has serious health problems, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
Karomatov, 42, has served five years of a nine-year prison term for fraud, a charge frequently brought against human rights activists.
Karomatov's wife, Namuna Karomatova, who recently visited him in prison, told RFE/RL on June 24 that he is suffering from advanced tuberculosis and coughs up blood.
"He is so weak," she said. "The doctors told him that he has five holes in his lungs. After one and a half years of treatment, his condition has again deteriorated while he was in prison."
Karomatov was among a number of jailed Uzbek rights defenders highlighted in a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) appeal.
In a statement on June 22, HRW urged European Union officials visiting Uzbekistan for talks on human rights to demand the release of at least 13 human rights defenders who "are currently languishing in Uzbekistan's prisons for no other reason than their legitimate human rights work."
HRW specifically singled out Norboy Kholjigitov, 58, who suffers from diabetes, and a number of others in urgent need of medical attention. They include Karomatov, journalists Jamshid Karimov and Dilmurod Saidov, and activists Gaibullo Jalilov and Abdurasul Khudainazarov.
International and local groups estimate that there are currently hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Uzbek prisons. The Moscow-based human rights watchdog Memorial calculates on the basis of its records that thousands of people have been subject to political persecution over the past two decades.
Analysts say Uzbek President Islam Karimov might try to improve his country's image by proclaiming a large-scale amnesty to mark the 20th anniversary on September 1 of independence from the USSR. But previous amnesties did not extend to most political prisoners.
Namuna Karomatova is among hundreds of wives, mothers, and children who hope their relatives will be released this year. An amnesty is usually announced just before Constitution Day on December 8. The wife of one prominent political prisoner told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on condition of anonymity that the Uzbek security services hinted he will be pardoned soon.
Last month, the Uzbek authorities unexpectedly released dissident poet Yusuf Juma, 53, who was immediately stripped of his Uzbek citizenship and expelled from the country.
After rejoining his family in the United States, Juma thanked and gave full credit to the U.S. government for his release. He had been imprisoned for nearly three years and said torture is routine in Uzbek jails.