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Uzbek Activist Arrested

Authorities in Uzbekistan arrested Nodira Khidoyatova, a leader of the Sunshine Uzbekistan opposition group, after she landed in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, on a flight from Russia. Ms. Khidoyatova is accused of tax evasion and other financial crimes, but many believe the charges have been trumped up as part of the Uzbek government's campaign to suppress dissent.

The head of Sunshine Uzbekistan, Sanjar Umarov, was arrested in October, supposedly on embezzlement charges. Mr. Umarov's supporters say his criticism of Uzbek President Islam Karimov was the real reason behind his arrest.

Human rights groups, independent journalists, and opposition politicians in Uzbekistan have faced a wave of government repression since the violent suppression of demonstrations in the town of Andijan last May. According to human rights groups, Uzbek government forces in Andijan shot and killed hundreds of demonstrators. Uzbek courts have convicted dozens of men in trials criticized by human rights groups as a government-orchestrated show.

The government of Uzbekistan has refused international calls for an independent inquiry of the Andijan episode. Julieta Noyes of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor says that the world was "appalled" by the violence in Andijan:

"We demand an independent international investigation of that tragedy and the events that led up to it. We are deeply concerned about the harassment and restrictions on journalists and nongovernmental groups seeking to follow up on those events."

President George W. Bush says that "people ought to be allowed to express themselves in the public square without fear of reprisal from the government." That applies as much to Uzbekistan as anywhere else.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.