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October 13, 2010

Rights Group Slams Uzbekistan Conviction of Russian Journalist

A leading international human rights group is urging Uzbekistan to reverse its conviction of Russian journalist Vladimir Berezovsky, calling the charges against him "bogus."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says an Uzbek court convicted the Russian news website editor of defamation charges Wednesday.  Human Rights Watch said the journalist plans to appeal the ruling.  It says he will not have to face punishment for the conviction, but he will have a criminal record.

A Europe and Central Asia adviser at Human Rights Watch, Allison Gill, accused Uzbek authorities of waging what she described as a "relentless campaign against free speech and independent expression."

An Uzbek journalist who reports for the Voice of America also is on trial in Uzbekistan on charges of slandering and insulting the government.

The charges against Abdumalik Bobaev specifically cite his work for VOA.  Bobaev also is charged with endangering public security and illegally crossing the Uzbek border.  If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.

Rights groups and media organizations say Uzbekistan is one of the world's worst offenders of press freedom.