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Uzbek Government Challenged On Jailing of Opposition Figure

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The Bush administration and an international human rights group are pressing Uzbekistan in the case of Sanjar Umarov, the leader of the country's new opposition Sunshine Coalition, whose attorney reported last seeing him naked and incoherent in his jail cell a week ago.

Umarov, who has permanent resident status in the United States, was arrested in an Oct. 22 raid on the headquarters of the group founded this year to oppose the authoritarian government of President Islam Karimov. Authorities said Umarov, a businessman who has dealt in oil, cotton and telecommunications, was suspected of embezzlement.

But Human Rights Watch alleged yesterday that the case was politically motivated, part of a "ruthless crackdown on dissent" following an uprising in May that Uzbek security forces quashed. The New York-based monitoring group called on the Uzbek government to release Umarov pending an independent review of the charges.

Since his last visit, Umarov's attorney has been unable to visit his client, and the government has turned down appeals for Umarov to receive medical treatment.

U.S. officials have also urged the Uzbek government publicly and privately to "live up to its full range of international commitments on human rights, including due process in relevant cases, which includes the Umarov case," said a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the case.

-- Robin Wright

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