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Uzbekistan court gives suspended sentence to HRW activist

[JURIST] Human rights activist Umida Niyazova received a suspended sentence on Tuesday after reading a confession and expressing regret for "the crimes [she] committed unintentionally." The Uzbek appeals court reduced the seven-year sentence [JURIST report] she received last week after being convicted of illegal border crossing, smuggling, and distributing Islamic extremist propaganda. Niyazova worked for Human Rights Watch [advocacy group] and was arrested earlier this year after returning to Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan. The statement she read in court Tuesday also called HRW's work "biased" and harmful to the Uzbek people.

HRW has said the trial was politically motivated [press release] and has called on the EU "to make the release of rights defenders a necessary precondition for any further easing of sanctions against Uzbekistan." Sanctions were imposed [JURIST report] in November 2005 in response to the Uzbek government's failure to allow an independent investigation into the May 2005 Andijan uprising [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive], during which thousands of demonstrators protesting the trial of 23 businessmen on religious extremism charges stormed a prison [JURIST report], allowing about 2,000 inmates to escape. In response, government troops killed as many as 500 demonstrators [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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