Uzbek activist sentenced to 7 years

A court convicted a human rights activist of distributing Islamic propaganda Tuesday and sentenced her to seven years in prison, her lawyer said.

Uzbek activist sentenced to 7 years

A court convicted a human rights activist of distributing Islamic propaganda Tuesday and sentenced her to seven years in prison, her lawyer said.

The verdict came as authorities in Uzbekistan — once an important U.S. ally in the Afghan war — have launched a crackdown on foreign-funded aid groups and independent media. Western groups and media have been critical of the government for not allowing an independent probe into the killings of scores of protesters two years ago in the city of Andijan.

Umida Niyazova, who was a translator for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and wrote for independent online publications, was convicted after a two-day trial that journalists and international monitors were prohibited from attending, her lawyer Tatyana Davydova said.

"That's too much for nothing," Davydova said of the sentence. She said prosecutors had "completely" failed to prove Niyazova's guilt.

Niyazova, 32, was briefly detained in December, and her laptop computer, papers and passport were confiscated. She fled to Kyrgyzstan, then returned to Uzbekistan after being told by her lawyer that the criminal investigation against her had been closed.

She was re-arrested, however, and charged with illegal border crossing and smuggling materials supporting a religious group called Akramiya.

Survivors and rights groups said government troops killed hundreds of mostly peaceful protesters in Andijan.

In a statement released after the trial unexpectedly began Monday, the group's Europe and Central Asia director, Holly Cartner, called the charges politically motivated and said Niyazova was a "victim of the government's fierce crackdown on civil society."

At the trial, Niyazova said she was only guilty of illegally crossing the border when she was trying to escape arrest, according to Berg, who was brought in as a witness. Niyazova asked the judge to suspend the sentence so she could care for her 1-year-old son, Berg said.

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

A rights advocate who claimed she had counted 500 dead bodies in an Andijan schoolyard on the morning after the violence was sentenced last week to six years in prison for anti-government activity and possession of banned literature.

Uzbek courts have also convicted about 250 alleged organizers of the revolt.

Karimov, a former Communist boss, has ruled the Central Asian nation with an iron fist, eliminating opposition and silencing his critics.

Uzbekistan had hosted a U.S. air base supporting the Afghan military campaign, but the government closed it in the wake of Western criticism over the crackdown at Andijan.

Last Mod: 02 Mayıs 2007, 11:52
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