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Uzbekistan court sentences HRW rights activist to seven years

[JURIST] Human rights activist Umida Niyazova was sentenced to seven years in prison after an Uzbek court convicted her Tuesday 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 on charges of crossing the border illegally and smuggling materials allegedly supporting an extremist religious group known as Akramiya [Wikipedia backgrounder]. She fled to Kyrgyzstan after being briefly detained in December, but returned to the country after being told the criminal investigation against her was closed.

Human Rights Watch has said the trial was politically motivated [press release] and 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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