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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 08:03 GMT
Uzbek 'torture' mother freed
An Uzbek court has freed a woman involved in a key human rights case, just hours before US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began a visit.

Fatima Mukhadirova, 62, is the mother of a man who died in prison, allegedly after he was immersed in boiling water and otherwise tortured.

She was jailed for six years earlier this month for "undermining the constitution".

But the court has now reduced the penalty to a fine of about $250.

The court said Mrs Mukhadirova's age and gender lay behind the decision.

But the release seemed timed to coincide with Mr Rumsfeld's visit. He arrived in the capital Tashkent for talks with President Islam Karimov about the continued US military presence in the country.

Taking into account the fact that she is a woman, as well as her old age, the court decided to mitigate the punishment and free her with a fine
Alisher Ergashev, lawyer
Uzbekistan has been a close ally of the United States since the attacks of 11 September, and served as the launch-pad for US attacks on Afghanistan.

Rights groups had called on Mr Rumsfeld to bring up human rights issues during the talks.

Mrs Mukhadirova was first arrested after she drew attention to her son's death.

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

But human rights groups say her real offence was to raise questions about 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.

Uzbek mother jailed for six years
12 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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