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Uzbek Activist Granted Exit Visa After Long Struggle

Dmitry Tikhonov (undated)
Dmitry Tikhonov (undated)
Uzbek rights activist Dmitry Tikhonov has been given an exit visa after months of rejections and litigation against Uzbekistan's Interior Ministry, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Despite a Tashkent appeals court's ruling against Tikhonov on March 23, the Interior Ministry decided to allow him to leave the country after his plight attracted international attention.

Tikhonov, 37, told RFE/RL on March 24 that the key point of his "victory" over Uzbek authorities in finally getting the exit visa was the decision to make his case public.

"I cannot say that justice has prevailed; it's rather a paradox, beyond human logic," he said. "But they were afraid that my case was made so public and that the media was on my side. And I thank you all for your support."

The "paradox" to which Tikhonov refers lies in the fact that the Interior Ministry's Travel Permissions Department contacted him one day before his appeals court hearing to say that he should come and collect his exit visa.

But the next morning Tikhonov went to the trial, where the judge ruled that the continued denial of an exit visa for him was lawful. Just two hours later, he went to the Travel Permissions Department, which placed the visa into his passport.

Tikhonov is an ethnic Russian from the city of Angren in the Tashkent region. He applied for an exit visa twice in 2010; first in May when he was invited to take part in an African expedition as a zoologist, and the second time in the autumn when he wanted to visit his brother in Germany. Both applications were rejected without explanation.

Tikhonov, a member of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, told RFE/RL on January 4 that he had no choice but to file the lawsuit against the Interior Ministry.

Tikhonov has been an outspoken critic of human rights violations and alleged corruption in his hometown, Angren, which is 110 kilometers east of the capital.

Uzbekistan is the only former Soviet republic that still requires exit visas. Even Turkmenistan -- notorious for imposing travel restrictions on its citizens -- abandoned exit visas in January 2002.

Uzbek authorities insist that permission to travel abroad is needed to protect the country from terrorism.

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