Three prisoners of conscience were held in police custody for short periods in connection with activities in defence of human rights. Three possible prisoners of conscience were detained for two months on a charge of libelling the President. Six possible prisoners of conscience arrested in 1994 were released. An opposition political activist was allegedly tortured in detention, and an international human rights monitor was ill-treated after being arbitrarily detained by police. The son of an opposition leader was assaulted by suspected government agents. Three Islamic religious activists remained "disappeared". At least twelve death sentences were passed and an unknown number of people were executed. Addressing the Oliy Majlis (parliament) in August, President Islam Karimov called for the development of active opposition parties, a free press, and guarantees that the rights of citizens would be observed. The draft of a new law on political parties was published in September, but had not entered into force by the end of the year. During the year the authorities registered two human rights organizations, the Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Individual and the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, the latter having formerly operated underground and in exile since its foundation in 1992. The Chairman of the Human Rights Society, former prisoner of conscience Abdumannob Pulatov (see Amnesty International Report 1994), returned from exile in the USA in August, at the personal invitation of President Karimov, to arrange the organization's registration. Polina Braunerg, a lawyer and human rights activist, was detained three times during a three-day period in March by officers of the National Security Service in Almalyk, near the capital, Tashkent. She was held for questioning ostensibly about her alleged involvement in illegal commercial activity, but the real motive appeared to have been to investigate her human rights and political activities. Polina Braunerg's teenage son, Nikita Braunerg, was detained twice in the same period. Both were prisoners of conscience. In September, Akhmatzhan Abdulayev was detained for several hours after accompanying prominent human rights defender Mikhail Ardzinov to a meeting with a representative of Amnesty International during an international human rights seminar in Tashkent. Akhmatzhan Abdulayev was a prisoner of conscience. Possible prisoners of conscience Kholiknazar Ganiyev and Bakhtiyor Burkhanov, university lecturers, and Nosim Boboyev, a tax inspector, were arrested in February in Samarkand and charged with "public defamation or slander of the President ... including by means of the press or other media". The charge apparently related to their possession of, and involvement in distributing, copies of several banned opposition publications. In April, the three men were released and the case against them was dropped. Possible prisoners of conscience Abdulla Abdurazakov and Rashid Bekzhanov (see Amnesty International Report 1996) were released in May as part of a presidential amnesty. Possible prisoner of conscience Gaipnazar Koshchanov (see Amnesty International Report 1996), who was also released in May, was officially listed as a beneficiary of the amnesty, although he had apparently been due to complete his sentence at that time. A further amnesty in August resulted in the release of possible prisoners of conscience Mamadali Makhmudov (see Amnesty International Report 1996), Khoshim Suvanov and Shavkat Mamatov. The latter two had been part of a group of seven people tried in 1995 for serious crimes against the state (see Amnesty International Report 1996); the other four serving custodial sentences – Murad Dzhurayev, Erkin Ashurov, Nemat Akhmedov and Shavkat Kholbayev – remained in prison, but it was unclear whether they had also benefited from the amnesty by having their sentences reduced. Reports of torture and ill-treatment continued to be received. Safar Bekzhanov, an activist with the outlawed Erk (Freedom) political party, who had been imprisoned in 1993 on a charge of fraud, which his supporters claimed had been fabricated for political reasons, was released under the May amnesty. He alleged that he had been tortured throughout his imprisonment. In August, John MacLeod, a British citizen and representative of the organization Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, was ill-treated by police in Tashkent who detained him for several hours. Dmitry Fattakhov, who had allegedly been tortured in police custody in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996), was released from confinement in a psychiatric hospital in February and allowed to travel to Israel with his mother for medical treatment. In November, Khasan Mirsaidov, son of a prominent government opponent, Shukrulla Mirsaidov, was abducted by unknown men who beat him and detained him for around 12 hours. The attackers were believed to have been government agents. Khasan Mirsaidov's father and brother had suffered similar treatment in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). There was no news about Islamic prayer leader Abduvali Mirzoyev and his assistant Ramazan Matkarimov, who "disappeared" in 1995 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). The Uzbek authorities continued to deny involvement in their "disappearance". The 1992 "disappearance" of Abdullo Utayev, leader of the unregistered Islamic Renaissance Party of Uzbekistan (see Amnesty International Report 1994), remained similarly unresolved; the Tashkent City Procurator's Office disclosed that they were treating his case as murder, albeit without indicating how they had concluded that he was dead. The death penalty remained in force, but no official statistics on its application were made known. From unofficial sources it was known that at least twelve death sentences were passed for crimes including murder and drug-trafficking, but the true figures were probably much higher. It was reported that executions continued to take place, but reliable statistical data was unavailable. One death sentence passed in 1995 was changed on appeal to a term of imprisonment, but it also became known that two men sentenced to death in 1994, Bakhodir Sharipov and Sukhrob Sobirov, had been executed in September 1995 and the information withheld from their families for six months. Information received in 1996 showed that the number of death sentences passed in 1995 had been at least 20. Amnesty International condemned the detention of Polina and Nikita Braunerg and Akhmatzhan Abdulayev and continued to urge an end to the practice of using short-term police custody to punish people for exercising fundamental human rights. The organization sought further information about the charges against Kholiknazar Ganiyev, Bakhtiyor Burkhanov and Nosim Boboyev. It welcomed the release of possible prisoners of conscience Abdulla Abdurazakov, Rashid Bekzhanov, Gaipnazar Koshchanov, Mamadali Makhmudov, Khoshim Suvanov and Shavkat Mamatov, but continued to call for a judicial review of the case of Murad Dzhurayev, Erkin Ashurov, Nemat Akhmedov and Shavkat Kholbayev. Amnesty International called for investigations into the allegations that Safar Bekzhanov had been tortured, the ill-treatment of John MacLeod and the beating of Khasan Mirsaidov, and for anyone found responsible to be brought to justice. The organization continued to call for clarification of the whereabouts of Abduvali Mirzoyev, Ramazan Matkarimov and Abdullo Utayev. It also called for the commutation of all death sentences and continued to press the authorities to abolish the death penalty.

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