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Freedom House Calls for Immediate Release of Uzbek Activist
Umida Niyazova, a human rights activist in Uzbekistan and former Freedom House employee, was arrested last week and may face five to ten years in prison.
Ms. Niyazova is a member of Veritas, an Uzbek human rights group, and a translator for Human Rights Watch. In late December 2006, she was detained by the police and her laptop, which may have contained human rights-related documents, was confiscated. As many standard human rights documents are deemed illegal by the Uzbek government, Ms. Niyazova left Uzbekistan for neighboring Kyrgyzstan to avoid possible arrest. However, she returned in mid-January believing that no charges had been raised. Instead, she was arrested on charges of smuggling extremist literature and illegally crossing the border from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan.
“The arrest of Umida Niyazova is an absolute travesty and an outrage. Ms. Niyazova is a committed human rights activist and Freedom House strongly believes she is being targeted because of her work,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. “The Uzbek government is known for its torture of prisoners and detainees, and we are very concerned about Ms. Niyazova’s safety,” she added.
Ms. Windsor continued, “In the very strongest terms, we encourage the U.S. government and members of the EU to speak out about this issue publicly. It must be clear to the Uzbek government that the international community is aware of Ms. Niyazova’s arrest and is watching closely to see what transpires.”
Uzbekistan is considered to be one of the world's most repressive regimes. Following the Andijon conflict, the Uzbek government launched a comprehensive crackdown against independent media, civil society organizations and human rights activists. In 2006, Freedom House downgraded Uzbekistan's score in Freedom in the World, its annual survey, to the lowest possible for political rights and civil liberties.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in Uzbekistan since it became an independent country in 1991.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.