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AIDS activist sentenced to seven years in jail

(CJES/IFEX) - Maksim Popov, a prominent Uzbek anti-AIDS activist, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his brochure "HIV and AIDS Today". The small brochure, which was published by Popov with money provided by UNICEF and Population Services International (PSI) Сentral Asia, was expected to provide thousands of young people with information about AIDS.

The investigators and the court found that the brochure, which calls for the use of condoms during sex and sterile syringes when injecting drugs, promotes the wrong lifestyle. Popov was sentenced and convicted in November 2009. His brochure was found to be harmful to children and teenagers and its content was deemed to contradict two articles of the Uzbek Criminal Code (Article 127, which deals with the involvement of a minor into anti-social behavior, and Article 274, which deals with the involvement in the use of narcotic substances and psychotropic substances).

The trial was held behind closed doors, and Popov's acquaintances, who testified as witnesses, said all copies of the brochure were destroyed after it was recognized as harmful.

"It's just savagery: where are we going to? He has not committed anything. How can you try this pure and innocent man and treat the results of his work so barbarically?" said an official with the AIDS Center, who asked not to be identified. After the verdict was read, Popov was taken to a penal colony near Tashkent.

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