Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Uzbekistan: Jailed Opposition Leader's Health at Risk

(Tashkent, November 1, 2005) ? The Uzbek government should
ensure immediate medical attention for jailed opposition leader Sanjar
Umarov, including an independent psychiatric examination, Human
Rights Watch said today. Today marks a week since Umarov's
attorney found him naked and incoherent in his cell.

The latest incident in the Uzbek government's ruthless crackdown on
dissent, Umarov's arrest and detention appear to be politically
motivated.

"Sanjar Umarov needs to receive immediate medical care," said Holly
Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being."

The leader of the opposition political movement "Sunshine Coalition,"
Umarov was arrested on the night of October 22. When his attorney
went to see him three days later in the detention facility of the
Tashkent City Police Department, he found Umarov naked in his
basement cell, covering his face with his hands and rocking back and
forth. He did not react when the attorney called his name. Since this
visit, his attorney has not been able to talk to his client or to the
investigator on his case. The authorities have failed to act on his
attorney's requests for an urgent independent psychiatric evaluation.

Authorities have charged Umarov, a permanent resident of the United
States, with embezzlement related to an oil company in which he
formerly had an ownership interest. He apparently has no current
business involvement in Uzbekistan. According to Uzbek law, since a
formal arrest warrant had already been issued, Umarov should have
been transferred to pre-trial detention rather than being held in the
temporary detention cells of the police station, where detainees are
most at risk of torture.

"Umarov's arrest appears to be politically motivated," said Cartner.
"The authorities should release him pending an independent review of
the charges against him."

Established earlier this year, the "Sunshine Coalition" is made up of
businessmen and academics. It has close ties with the Ozod Dekhon
("Free Peasants") opposition party. The coalition openly criticizes
what it terms "corrupt government bureaucracies" in Uzbekistan on its
website. Its Economic Advisory Council promotes a "Road Map for
Prosperity," an action plan to implement liberal, free-market economic
reforms. Umarov only recently returned to Uzbekistan from a visit to
the United States and Russia, where he publicly discussed the
coalition's ideas for economic reform. On October 17, Umarov wrote
an open letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in which he
called for economic reforms in Uzbekistan and closer economic
cooperation with Russia.

The Uzbek government has a longstanding record of suppressing any
kind of independent opposition. The crackdown on political
opponents, human rights defenders and journalists has reached crisis
proportions in the aftermath of the massacre in Andijan on May 13, in
which government forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site, please
visit: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/01/uzbeki11946.htm

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