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Human Rights Supporters Must Demand Fair Trial for Uzbek Activist
Supporters of human rights and democracy around the world must strongly urge the Uzbek government to give a fair and transparent trial to human rights activist Umida Niyazova, Freedom House said today. The trial begins tomorrow, April 19, 2007, in Sergeli District Court in Tashkent.
Ms. Niyazova, a former employee of Freedom House who was employed as a translator for Human Rights Watch at the time of her arrest, has been in the custody of Uzbek authorities since January 22, 2007. She was arrested on charges of smuggling extremist literature and illegal border-crossing, and a third charge of creating or distributing materials threatening public security and order was later added.
If convicted, each of these charges carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison. However, Freedom House and most observers believe the charges were constructed as a result of Ms. Niyazova’s human rights activities.
“Ms. Niyazova’s only crime is her promotion of democracy, human rights and basic civil liberties that we in the United States and other countries take for granted,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. “We call on the Uzbek government to adhere to the rule of law during this trial and to allow observers and journalists to report on the proceedings,” she added.
Most Uzbek human rights defenders have little faith that the court, notorious for its corruption and lack of independence from the executive branch, will acquit Ms. Niyazova. However, they have stressed the need for embassies of democratic countries to dispatch monitors to the trial to serve as witnesses to the event, and for independent journalists in Uzbekistan to try to cover the hearings.
“We are very concerned that Ms. Niyazova, the mother of a two-year old son, could be convicted on false charges and imprisoned for decades,” said Ms. Windsor. “It is absolutely imperative that those who support democratic ideals stand up for Ms. Niyazova and show the Uzbek government that the international community is closely watching its actions,” she added.
Ms. Niyazova’s arrest is just one of the latest examples of the Uzbek government's campaign to silence journalists and activists. In the past few months, the operation has resulted in the imprisonment of at least three journalists, several criminal cases launched against independent reporters, and the jailing of nearly two dozen human rights defenders.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring 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.