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Uzbekistan pardons rights activist

[JURIST] Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive] authorities have granted a pardon to a journalist and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy group] translator sentenced to prison, according to Tuesday reports. Umida Niyazova [CPJ profile] was sentenced to seven years [JURIST report] after an Uzbek court convicted her last May of illegal border crossing, smuggling, and distributing propaganda allegedly supporting an extremist religious group known as Akramiya [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Her sentence was later reduced [JURIST report] after she read a confession and expressed regret for "the crimes [she] committed unintentionally." In a separate case, prominent Uzbek human rights activist Bakhtiyar Khamrayev said his son, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2006, was also pardoned on Tuesday.

HRW had said Niyazova's 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." EU 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]. In response, government troops killed as many as 500 demonstrators [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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