04/16/2008, 00.00
UZBEKISTAN
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Poet Yusuf Juma, one of Uzbekistan’s few free voices, sentenced to forced labour

He gets five years for “resisting arrest and assaulting police officers”. But many believe he was punished for criticising President Karimov. One of his sons is also sentenced after being tortured in prison to extract a confession.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For many people dissident Uzbek poet Yusuf Juma was sentenced to five years' forced labour for criticising in his works President  Islam Karimov’s oppression and dreaming about democracy and the rule of law. The Human Rights Defenders Initiative group said Yusuf Juma was convicted of resisting arrest and assaulting police officers, charges he denies.

Mr Yusuf was arrested in December 2007 after taking part in a protest. His son Bobur Yusuf was given a three-year suspended sentence by the same court.

Mr Bobur admitted the charges, but another of Mr Juma's sons, Alisher Yusuf, said that his brother was tortured and had to plead guilty after being told that their father would get a 20-year sentence if he refused to admit the crimes.

Born in Bukhara in 1958 Yusuf Juma is one of the few critical voices in Uzbekistan.

The Andijan massacre of May 2005, when the army fired on people killing hundreds, made Yusuf Juma write a series of poems.

On 25 July 2007 he was arrested with his son Mashrab, but was eventually released for lack of evidence.

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