Friday, November 04, 2005

Sanjar Umarov


Things have continued to get even grimmer in Uzbekistan since the events of Andijan:
Uzbek opposition group Sunshine Uzbekistan fears its leader, Sanjar Umarov, has been drugged in custody. Mr Umarov's lawyer said he visited his client on Tuesday and found him naked in his cell and in a incoherent state. Mr Umarov was arrested on Saturday, charged with stealing an undisclosed sum of money. Sunshine Uzbekistan, a vocal critic of President Islam Karimov's repressive regime, says the charges have been fabricated.
 [...]
Sunshine Uzbekistan is calling for free market reforms in the authoritarian Central Asian republic. The offices of the group were searched on Saturday by dozens of men in plain clothes, and a large number of documents were taken away.
There has been a wave of arrests of government critics since May. At the beginning of October, a human rights worker was arrested and held in a psychiatric hospital.
[She] has said authorities are trying to make her declare herself mentally ill. Yelena Urlayeva was arrested a month ago for distributing leaflets bearing a political cartoon.
[...]
Hospital Number Two, for severe and dangerous psychiatric cases, is run like a prison, with little or no access to patients. It is a relic of the Soviet Union, which critics say the Uzbek government uses just like its Soviet forebears to repress critics of its authoritarian policies.
The BBC is suspending its newsgathering operations... Regional Head Behrouz Afagh said
"Over the past four months since the unrest in Andijan, BBC staff in Uzbekistan have been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation which has made it very difficult for them to report on events in the country," Mr Afagh said.

"BBC World Service remains committed to covering events in Uzbekistan, and its English language correspondents will continue to seek access to the country and to report on events there as and when they are granted visas."

In June, the World Service correspondent, Monica Whitlock, was forced to leave Tashkent under pressure from the government. Two local members of staff have since been granted refugee status by the United Nations. The Uzbek Ambassador to London has declined an invitation to discuss the issue with the BBC.
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