Uzbek Human Rights Defender Unjustly Convicted
An Uzbek human rights defender, Umida Niyazova, was sentenced yesterday to seven years in prison in a hastily scheduled trial that did not meet international standards, Freedom House said today.
Ms. Niyazova, a former employee of Freedom House who was employed as a translator for Human Rights Watch at the time of her arrest, was convicted today and sentenced to a seven-year prison term for smuggling extremist literature, illegal border-crossing and creating or distributing materials threatening public security and order. Originally scheduled for April 19, her trial was postponed until yesterday when it began without any notice to the public. Even Ms. Niyazova’s attorney was unaware of the change until thirty minutes before the trial.
Freedom House is also concerned about reports from a Human Rights Watch representative who was allowed to observe the hearing that neither Ms. Niyazova nor her defense witnesses were given time by the judge to respond to the defense or prosecution’s questions, and referred only to their written statements.
“Ms. Niyazova’s trial was clearly neither free nor fair, and the Tashkent Court of Appeals should throw out her conviction,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. “The charges brought against Ms. Niyazova are false and were simply politically motivated to silence her work to peacefully advance human rights in Uzbekistan.”
During her hearing, Ms. Niyazova confessed to the charge of illegal border crossing but denied the other two charges brought against her.
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.
For more information on Uzbekistan, visit:
Freedom in the World 2006: Uzbekistan
Freedom of the Press 2007: Uzbekistan
Press Release: Human Rights Supporters Must Demand Fair Trial for Uzbek Activist, April 18, 2007
Press Release: Freedom House Calls for Immediate Release of Uzbek Activist, January 30, 2007
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.