The Uzbek government must explain the continued detention of a human rights activist, Human Rights Watch said today.

Elena Urlaeva, a member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, was arrested on November 6 in the waiting room of the office of the human rights Ombudsman in Tashkent while trying to deliver a complaint. The police cleared the room and arrested Urlaeva after finding an envelope with white powder. Urlaeva later stated that the powder was baking soda that she uses for gargling when she has a sore throat.

Uzbek police have refused to give any information to those close to Urlaeva about charges that she may be facing or the reason for her detention.

"The Uzbek authorities have some explaining to do," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "If there are no credible charges against her, she should be immediately released."

Police first brought Urlaeva to Tashkent Hospital #1, for unexplained reasons, and then to a detention facility typically used for brief administrative sentences, where she remains today.

In April, Uzbek authorities had forcibly committed Urlaeva to a mental institution. She had left the hospital in June, but a court recently upheld the order for her involuntary treatment. The day before she was detained, an appeals court had cancelled the order.