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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK
Uzbek police break up protest
Uzbek police are reported to have forcibly ended a protest outside the US embassy in the capital Tashkent.

Witnesses said dozens of police swept through a makeshift camp on Tuesday night, beating the protesters and driving them away in buses.

The group of several dozen people, all from the same family, were demanding the return of their confiscated farm.

Uzbek authorities have been very wary of unrest since Kyrgyzstan's government was toppled by protests in March.

A spokesman for Uzbekistan's interior ministry insisted the protesters had not been hurt, and said they had been driven back to the southern province where they had come from.

"The protesters comprised 11 men, 13 women and 19 children... There were no injuries," Vyecheslav Tutin told the French news agency AFP.

But eyewitnesses said they saw more than 100 plain-clothed officers pull up, stamp on the tents, beat the protesters and drag them into buses.

"I could hear the voices of women and children crying out for help," said one local resident.

Property loss

The protestors were demanding justice from the government which they say unfairly took possession of their profitable farm.

They are relatives of Bakhodir Choriyev, who was granted asylum in the US last January after his farm was seized by authorities in the 1990s.

The BBC's correspondent in Tashkent, Monica Whitlock, says this is a major issue in Uzbekistan, where many people are farmers.

In March, 500 angry farmers took over a police station and burned two police cars in a similar protest.

And since anti-government forces overthrew the government in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in March, there have been several different protests in Uzbekistan, including a factory strike and a hunger-strike in a prison.

The government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov has long drawn international condemnation for its poor human rights record.

Human rights campaigners have accused the US of ignoring the abuses. Uzbekistan plays an important role in Washington's war on terror, and the US occupies an air base on its territory.




SEE ALSO:
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Country profile: Uzbekistan
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Timeline: Uzbekistan
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