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An Uzbek court released Umida Niazova, a human rights defender and translator for Human Rights Watch’s Tashkent office who was convicted last week on politically motivated charges, Human Rights Watch said today. At her appeal hearing on May 8, 2007 Niazova’s seven-year prison sentence, handed down May 1, was commuted to a seven-year suspended sentence.

“We are enormously relieved and pleased that Umida is no longer behind bars, but she should never have been jailed in the first place,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

At least 14 other human rights defenders remain in custody in Uzbekistan on politically motivated charges ranging from “anti-state activities” and slander to extortion. Among them is Gulbahor Turaeva, a medical doctor who was sentenced on April 24, 2007 to six years’ imprisonment for bringing books by an exiled Uzbek opposition leader into Uzbekistan.

“We remain profoundly concerned about the fate of at least 14 other human rights defenders imprisoned in Uzbekistan, and urge the government to free them at once,” said Cartner. “We call on Uzbekistan’s international partners, especially the European Union, to demand their unconditional release.”

Under the terms of her new sentence, Niazova is obliged to report regularly to neighborhood police, must notify the authorities about any changes in her profession, and must observe a 10:00 p.m. curfew.

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