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WAN appeals to Uzbekistan president to release journalists


(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a WAN press release:


Paris, 25 August 1999
For immediate release

WAN Appeals to Uzbekistan President to Release Journalists

The World Association of Newspapers has called on Uzbekistan President Islam
Karimov to release six journalists who were jailed and allegedly tortured
for insulting him and for their ties to the country's banned opposition
party.

An Uzbek court convicted the six journalists -- Muhammad Bekjanov, Rashid
Bekjanov, Kobil Dierov, Mamadali Mahmudov, Ne'mat Sharipov and Lusuf
Ruzimuradov -- on 18 August and jailed them for eight to 15 years. They were
reportedly held incommunicado and tortured -- beaten, burnt, electrified and
suffocated -- before their trial.

"The reports that have come to us are of an appalling nature and we urge you
to lead a thorough investigation into this matter to ensure that the
torturers are tried and punished for their crimes," WAN said in a letter to
President Karimov calling for the immediate release of the journalists.

"Physical intimidation is one of the most reprehensible means of stifling
independent journalism and provides an alarming insight into the situation
of human rights in Uzbekistan," said the letter, signed by WAN President
Bengt Braun.

The six journalists were convicted of forming part of a "criminal society"
and for using the mass media to "insult" the President. "This 'criminal
society' was in fact the only opposition party - 'Erk,' or 'Freedom' -- that
ran against you in the presidential election of 1991 and whose leader was
forced into exile in 1994," WAN said in the letter to President Karimov. "We
understand the nature of the insult charges have not yet been clarified."

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry,
defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 15,000
newspapers; its membership includes 61 national newspaper associations,
individual newspaper executives in 93 countries, 17 news agencies and seven
regional and world-wide press groups.


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