Source AP ©

Uzbek human rights activist sentenced to 6 years in jail for fraud

A leading human rights activist was charged with fraud and sentenced to six years and three months in jail, amid an ongoing crackdown on dissenters in Uzbekistan.

A court in the central city of Syrdarya convicted Karim Bozorboyev, a regional leader of the Esguliq rights group, rights advocate Abdurakhmon Tashanov told The Associated Press. Uzbek officials were not available for comment.

Bozorboyev joined the group in 2004 after leaving Fidokorlar, a government-affiliated political party, saying he was disgusted by corruption among Uzbek officials.

In recent years, at least 15 Uzbek human rights activists say they have been assaulted, forced to undergo compulsory psychiatric treatment or jailed on charges ranging from extortion to the dissemination of illegal literature.

The crackdown intensified after the May 2005 uprising in the eastern city of Andijan, when government troops opened fire on a crowd of mostly peaceful protesters. Survivors and human rights groups said at least 700 died, but the government put the figure at 187 and blamed Islamic militants for instigating the violence.

Also on Monday, another rights advocate said his son, who was arrested and convicted last August for alleged hooliganism, has been seriously wounded in an Uzbek prison, where he is serving his three-year sentence.

Bakhtiyer Khamrayev told the AP that his son Ikhtiyor Khamrayev was hospitalized Friday night after he stabbed himself in the stomach. He said his son injured himself to protest almost daily torture by prison authorities, in an effort to force him to confess in a crime he had not committed.

The father said his 21-year old son, a student, was imprisoned in retaliation for the elder Khamrayev's criticism of the Uzbek government.

Ostracized by Washington and the European Union, President Islam Karimov's government has evicted the U.S. military from a base near the Afghan border that had been used as part of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan.

Karimov, a former Communist Party boss, has ruled the Central Asian state of 27 million people since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, suppressing opposition and silencing dissent.

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