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HUMAN RIGHTS WORKER FREED AFTER CONFESSING IN COURT

An Uzbek human rights defender was released on parole last week after she confessed to her "crimes", report Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Gulbahor Turaeva was sentenced to six years in jail in April for bringing banned books by exiled opposition leader Muhammed Solih into Uzbekistan. She was charged with slander, anti-constitutional activities and producing and spreading materials that threaten public order. But on 12 June, the appeals court reduced Turaeva's prison term to a suspended sentence after she confessed to her crimes, renounced her human rights work and denounced her colleagues.

"I thank the court for its clemency, its humanity and the respect it has shown me. I will now look for a new job and I will probably work for the government. I promise never to break the law again," said Turaeva in court, according to RSF.

The Uzbek authorities claim all the proceedings brought against Turaeva had been within the law - with no political motivation. But Human Rights Watch says that their references to her human rights work and affiliations contradict their claims. "We're more convinced than ever that she was prosecuted and imprisoned unjustly," says Human Rights Watch.

A further 13 Uzbek human rights defenders are currently in custody in Uzbekistan, according to Human Rights Watch.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22588
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/yqvpnx
- Human Rights Watch on all Uzbek defenders in custody: http://hrw.org/campaigns/uzbekistan/portraits_0407.pdf
(26 June 2007)

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