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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 14:47 GMT
Uzbek opposition head faces jail
Sanjar Umarov - file photo
Sanjar Umarov was arrested after calling for reforms
An Uzbek prosecutor has called for an 18-year prison term for a prominent opposition leader on trial for alleged economic crimes.

Sanjar Umarov, the leader of Sunshine Uzbekistan, was arrested in 2005 for embezzlement, a charge supporters say is politically motivated.

Mr Umarov's lawyers complained that no documentary evidence had been presented to the court.

They have also expressed concern about Mr Umarov's treatment in custody.

One lawyer who visited Mr Umarov shortly after his arrest found him naked and incoherent.

Mr Umarov, an entrepreneur with business and family ties in the US, was accused of money-laundering and other economic crimes which relate to business dealings in Uzbekistan several years ago.

He came to prominence last year in the wake of May's shootings in the city of Andijan, where eyewitnesses say troops killed hundreds of people as they put down a popular uprising.

His group openly criticised the government's repressive policies and called for free-market reforms in Uzbekistan, where correspondents say the economy has stagnated because of excessive centralisation and corruption.

Since the Andijan crackdown, Uzbek authorities have put scores of people on trial for their part in the uprising.

Outside observers have said the court actions are show trials.

Mr Umarov was arrested shortly after sending a letter to parliament calling on lawmakers to discuss reforms.

His supporters allege that he has been drugged by the authorities.

Human rights groups say the Uzbek authorities often use mood-altering drugs to extract confessions - a claim that Tashkent denies.




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