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Uzbekistan Accused of Pre-Election Crackdown

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — The Uzbek government is cracking down on rights activists before Dec. 27 parliamentary elections, Human Rights Watch said, criticizing the West for staying silent.

Uzbekistan this year mended ties with the West that had been all but severed in 2005 after its harsh suppression of a riot in the town of Andijan where hundreds died, according to witnesses. The country is now an important link in a supply route for U.S. troops in nearby Afghanistan. Western governments and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have praised it for rights progress.

But the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the Uzbek government was attacking and harassing rights campaigners. “Uzbekistan’s international partners have been praising the government for human rights improvements, but this praise is wholly undeserved,” said Holly Cartner, the group’s Europe and Central Asia director. “Anyone who tries to report on human rights in Uzbekistan clearly risks getting attacked, arrested or worse.”

The group cited several cases where police prevented Uzbek activists from meeting its researcher Tanya Lokshina, who was attacked and held by police in what it called a “setup” this month.

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