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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 07:11 GMT
Uzbek mother jailed for six years
Uzbek prisoners
Some people have died in unusual circumstances in Uzbek jails
A court in Uzbekistan has jailed an elderly woman at the centre of what is being seen as a key human rights case.

Fatima Mukhadirova, 63, is the mother of a man who died in prison, allegedly after he was immersed in boiling water and otherwise tortured.

She was arrested after she drew attention to her son's death and charged with trying to undermine the constitution of Uzbekistan.

The judge handed down a maximum sentence of six years in a hard prison.

Mrs Mukhadirova was taken away in an armoured van, looking pale and drawn, according to the BBC's Monica Whitlock in Uzbekistan.

Her surviving children called out their goodbyes and handed the police food to take to jail.

Most were crying.

Looking for justice

Mrs Mukhadirova was accused of distributing extremist literature - that is, pamphlets propagating an Islamic state.

There had been a hope that she would be acquitted because her lawyer was strong and independent.

That would have made history here, but it was a tiny hope, our correspondent says.

Acquitting Mrs Mukhadirova would have raised questions about the reliability of police evidence and the death of her son Muzafar.

He was convicted of belonging to an illegal religious group and died in prison last year.

Human rights groups have said that he was immersed in boiling water, but the government maintains that he had heart disease and died after a fight with cell mates who threw scalding tea at him.

Photographs of the body appeared to show that his fingernails had been removed.

Government policy

The verdict passed on his mother sends a strong signal that there will be no rethinking of official strategy towards people it regards as seditious, our correspondent says.

Uzbekistan is a close ally of the United States, and the US embassy sent a local monitor to the trial.

Mukhadirova's lawyer, Alisher Ergashev, argued in his summing up on Wednesday that authorities failed to prove the leaflets found in Mrs Mukhadirova's home belonged to her because she lives with 10 relatives.

Mirzakayum Avazov, Mrs Mukhadirova's youngest son, said authorities "didn't like her making the circumstances of my brother's death public".

"My mother was simply trying to defend her sons and looked for justice, she only wanted those guilty of Muzafar's death to be punished," he said outside the courtroom.




SEE ALSO:
Uzbek 'tortured son' trial opens
05 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bank reviews Uzbek rights record
05 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Uzbekistan
01 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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