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Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
March 7, 2006


(Washington) - Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback [R-KS] sharply criticized the conviction of Uzbek opposition and human rights activists Nodira Hidoyatova and Sanjar Umarov. “With these latest arrests, President Karimov is clearly determined to isolate his country even farther,” said Brownback. “I urge him to pull back from this misguided campaign, release these activists and seek a serious dialogue with Uzbek society before it is too late.”

A criminal court in Tashkent on March 1 sentenced Hidoyatova to a 10-year prison term, accusing her of being part of a “criminal gang.” Sanjar Umarov, head of the Sunshine Coalition, was found guilty on March 6 by a Tashkent criminal court of ‘economic’ crimes and given a 14 ½ year sentence. The verdict will be reportedly reduced by one fourth, in accordance with the amnesty issued by the Uzbek Senate in December 2005.

“President Islam Karimov has run a police state in Uzbekistan since the early 1990s, but since last May’s massacre in Andijan, he has cracked down even harder, in an effort to completely stifle civil society,” said Commission Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith [R-NJ] “I urge Uzbek authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these moderate opposition activists.”

The Sunshine Coalition emerged in 2005, calling for political and economic reforms. After Uzbek security forces shot hundreds of demonstrators in Andijan last May, the Coalition criticized the use of force and urged an open accounting of what happened.

Commission Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin [D-MD] criticized the sentencing. “Since Andijan, Uzbek authorities have forced many Western NGOs, such as Freedom House and the BBC, to cease their activities in Uzbekistan, and many Uzbek human rights activists have been jailed. The case of Nodira Hidoyatova and Sanjar Umarov is the latest example of the government’s failure to respect its Helsinki commitments.”

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

Media Contact: Sean Woo
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