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Truckers across Russia began nationwide protests against the Platon road-tax system in late 2015. 

The Russian government has pinned the "foreign agent" label on a long-haul truckers organization that has been holding protests against a road tax since 2015.

The Justice Ministry said on December 1 that a surprise inspection of the United Truckers of Russia's documents revealed evidence that it "carries out the functions of a foreign agent."

The ministry's brief statement gave no further explanation and did not name any country or foreign organization that was allegedly funding the group.

The NGO was established after truckers across Russia began nationwide protests against the Platon road-tax system in late 2015.

United Truckers head Andrei Bazhutin said last month that the group plans to start a new series of protests in mid-December, ahead of the registration of candidates for Russia's March 18 presidential election.

A 2012 law requires any NGO that receives funding from abroad and is deemed to be engaged in political activity to formally register as a "foreign agent." A 2014 amendment enables the Justice Ministry to place groups on the list itself.

Russian and international human rights organizations have said the law was introduced to silence independent voices.

They describe it as part of a clampdown on dissent under President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to secure a new six-year term in the election.

With reporting by Meduza
Murad Dzhuraev (left) was recently released from prison after 21 years behind bars.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has issued a decree emphasizing that evidence obtained under torture is inadmissible in the Central Asian country's courts.

The November 30 decree follows years of international concerns about torture in Uzbekistan and accusations by rights groups that abuse at the hands of the authorities is widespread in its police stations, jails, and prisons.

The order states that evidence obtained by investigators through "torture, psychological and physical pressure and other cruel, inhumane methods that humiliate the dignity of parties in criminal cases or their close relatives" cannot be admissible in court.

It also says that information obtained from suspects and defendants in other ways that violate their rights is inadmissible, and that law enforcement authorities are obliged to explain people's rights to them when involving them in a criminal case.

Mirziyoev has vowed to improve Uzbekistan's poor human rights record since he came to power in September 2016, after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov.

The decree mentions that 191 defendants were acquitted in Uzbek courts in the last 10 months, while only seven acquittals were registered in the five years before that.

In recent months, several public figures, journalists, and politicians jailed on what rights activists say were politically motivated charges have been released.

In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Uzbek authorities had taken "some positive steps" during Mirziyoev's first year in office and called for "sustainable" improvements in human rights.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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