Dissident Uzbek poet given 5 years internal exile

An Uzbek court on Tuesday sentenced a dissident poet to five years in internal exile for insulting the authorities, an Uzbek rights activist said.

Dissident Uzbek poet given 5 years internal exile
Yusuf Juma, who criticised President Islam Karimov in his poems, was arrested in December last year when security forces stormed his house in the ancient Silk Road town of Bukhara.

Surat Ikramov, a prominent rights defender who attended the court, told Reuters the 50-year-old poet was sentenced to five years of domestic exile, but said the decision was milder than expected.

"Obviously he was sentenced for his criticism," he said.

The court, which could not be reached for comment, found Juma guilty of discrediting the authorities as well as resisting arrest and harming a police officer during his detention. He denied any wrongdoing, according to Ikramov.

The poet staged acts of protests last year by riding in a car with a banner reading "Dictator Karimov, resign!". His son Babur was given a three years suspended sentence on Tuesday. His other son, Mashrab, was jailed last year for a fight.

The West has long accused Uzbekistan of violating human rights and stifling the opposition. Karimov, who denies such abuses, has taken steps this year to mend relations with the West by pardoning 6 jailed rights activists.

Ikramov said the state prosecutor had asked for a five-year jail sentence for Juma, adding that a softer sentence could be seen as signs of a political relaxation in the ex-Soviet state.

"The government does not want to give more ground for criticism in the West," Ikramov said.

Uzbekistan's relations with the West soured in 2005 after Europe and the United Stated condemned the Uzbek government's killings of civilians in the town of Andizhan in 2005.

In Andizhan, witnesses said hundreds of people were killed when troops opened fire on a demonstration. Karimov put the number of dead at 187 and said most were "terrorists or security forces".

Up to 7,000 people could be in jail in Uzbekistan for political and religious reasons, rights activists say.
Last Mod: 16 Nisan 2008, 12:37
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