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Uzbek AIDS Activist Freed From Jail

Uzbek HIV/AIDS activist Maksim Popov had been serving a seven-year sentence.
TASHKENT -- An Uzbek HIV/AIDS activist whose imprisonment was widely condemned by international rights groups has been released from jail in Uzbekistan, his lawyer told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service.

Maksim Popov was the leader of the nongovernmental organization Izis, which worked with drug addicts, prostitutes, and others to promote HIV prevention. Popov authored a book with UN support that focused on preventing the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

An Uzbek court declared the book illegal after a state commission concluded it was "disrespectful" to national culture and Uzbek people. Popov was convicted in June 2009 for distributing the book and sentenced to seven years in jail.

News of his early release became known August 30 although Popov was freed in June.

It is not known why he was released early but he is still confined to his home when not at work and is required to report to local officials every day. Part of his salary is also automatically deducted by the state.

He was reportedly given a job as an unskilled laborer at an unnamed Tashkent organization.

Numerous international organizations, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the World Bank; UNICEF; and the United Nations Development Programme had called on the Uzbek government to release Popov.

Read more in Uzbek here