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Prominent Uzbek Rights Activist Dies


Uzbek human rights activist Vasila Inoyatova (file photo)

A well-known Uzbek human rights advocate who worked with political prisoners and was a vocal critic of forced labor in the Central Asian nation has died.

Sources told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on May 19 that Vasila Inoyatova died earlier that morning in Tashkent during an operation for internal bleeding.

She was 62.

Inoyatova was the longtime chairwoman of the Tashkent-based Ezgulik (Compassion) human rights center.

She campaigned against forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton industry and torture during the authoritarian rule of longtime leader Islam Karimov, whose death was announced in September 2016.

In recent years, Inoyatova was active in defending the rights of political prisoners, opposition activists, and independent journalists, visiting them in prison and trying to offer legal and financial support.

She was a key on-the-ground contact for international rights watchdogs seeking information about political prisoners in Uzbekistan.

"Vasila was a true champion of the underdog and will be sorely missed," Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter on May 19.

Karimov’s successor, Shavkat Mirziyoev, has promised reform following more than two decades of repressive rule under Karimov.

In recent months, he has taken steps to reform Uzbekistan's long-feared security services, and several activists and journalists have been freed after years in prison.

Mirziyoev made no public comments on the situation of human rights or democracy in Uzbekistan following his May 16 talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House.

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