WASHINGTON -- A group of 12 U.S. senators has called on Uzbek President Islam Karimov to "immediately and unconditionally" release two journalists and one human rights advocate whom supporters say were jailed for their work.
In a letter sent to the Uzbek leader
, the lawmakers said the release of journalists Salijon Abdurakhmanov and Dilmurod Saidov and human rights advocate Akzam Turgunov would "further our important bilateral relationship." They cited "deeply troubling questions regarding the validity of the cases" against the men.
The senators also requested information about the health of the men, who are considered prisoners of conscience by organizations including the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Human Rights Watch.
Press-freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders also repeated its call on June 26 for the release of Abdurakhmanov.
"After five years in prison in appalling conditions, this 63-year-old man's continuing detention is criminal," the group said.
It also called for the release of nine other Uzbek journalists "held in connection with their journalistic work."