Tuesday, May 1, 2007

BBC: Uzbek rights activist imprisoned

Uzbek rights activist imprisoned

Ms Niazova disputed the official account of the Andijan uprising
An Uzbek activist working for Human Rights Watch has been sentenced to seven years in jail for distributing inflammatory publications.
Umida Niazova, 32, was found guilty of smuggling, of illegally crossing the Uzbek border and of distributing publications threatening public order.

Human Rights Watch said the charges were politically motivated and linked to work about the 2005 Andijan revolt.

Ms Niazova is the 15th rights activist to have been imprisoned in Uzbekistan.

Last week, a human rights activist from Andijan, Gulbahor Turayeva, was sentenced to six years in prison for anti-constitutional activities, slander, and distributing materials threatening public order.

Computer files

The Uzbek government has said only 187 people were killed and that they were either its own troops or terrorists at Andijan in May 2005.

Ms Turayeva, a doctor like Ms Niazova, had told reporters that around 500 people, including women and children, were killed when Uzbek troops shot into a crowd of anti-government demonstrators.

Ms Niazova also wrote stories critical of the authorities' account of the events in Andijan.

She was arrested in January after attempting to return to Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan without a passport.

Research material relating to the uprising, deemed "extremist" by the prosecution, was also found on her computer.

A Human Rights Watch spokeswoman said Ms Niazova maintained that the computer filed related only to her work and had done nothing illegal.

"Umida was a woman who dared to raise her voice while Uzbek men keep silence," her aunt, Shafoat Niazova, said after the verdict.

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