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Torture has long been a problem in Uzbekistan. There are now reports that two more Uzbek detainees have died under suspicious circumstances.

Kamalodin Djumaniyozov’s family collected his body from police about a week after his December arrest on suspicion of theft. A videotape shows lesions on his forehead, bruising on his torso and neck, and other injuries.

Nodirgon Zamonov was arrested last July and reported dead on August 1st. He had also been detained on suspicion of theft. His family found him in their cowshed dead with a cord draped around his neck.

Over five-thousand Uzbeks are believed to be in prison for political reasons. They receive harsh treatment. Police and security services routinely beat, torture, and otherwise physically abuse detainees and prisoners to obtain confessions or incriminating information. A United Nations special rapporteur visited Uzbekistan and reported that torture is systematic.

One of those languishing in prison is journalist Ruslan Sharipov. He is the founder of the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan. Mr. Sharipov has reported regularly about the condition of the media in Uzbekistan.

In August, Mr. Sharipov was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of pedophilia and sodomy. But human rights activists and Western governments have expressed concern that he is in jail for refusing to bow to pressure to drop his criticism of President Islam Karimov’s government. On a recent visit to Uzbekistan, Lorne Craner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said that Sharipov should be anmestied.

According to the World Association of Newspapers, Mr. Sharipov said he had been “physically and psychologically tortured into reversing his plea.” He said he was “injected with an unknown substance, forced to inhale a substance that caused respiratory problems, threatened with an injection of the H-I-V virus, and forced to write a suicide note.”

Adam Ereli, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman, called on Uzbekistan to end torture:

“We are looking to the highest level of government to condemn torture and take firm steps to end its use, [and] credibly investigat[e] deaths in custody linked to torture.”

The Uzbekistan government has taken some positive steps. Over the past year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been given greater access to Uzbekistan’s prisons. But political stability depends on respect for human rights. And that means putting a stop to torture.