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#19 - JRL 7260
Uzbek Opposition: Activist's Arrest In Russia Political
July 22, 2003

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP)--An Uzbek opposition group said Tuesday the arrest of one of its founders in Moscow on drug charges was politically motivated persecution at the behest of Uzbek authorities.

Bakhrom Khamrayev, a founder of the Birlik opposition group was arrested Sunday and found in possession of heroin, Moscow police spokesman Pavel Klimovsky said. Agents of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, took party in the detention, he said.

A Birlik activist in Uzbekistan, Vasilya Inoyatova, said Khamrayev's wife was present at the arrest and had seen police plant the drugs.

"We believe that Khamrayev's arrest is connected with his political activity... He has never drunk alcohol and never used drugs," she said.

Khamrayev, 40, left Uzbekistan in the early 1990s when President Islam Karimov cracked down on the political opposition. He was granted Russian citizenship in 1998.

In Russia , Khamrayev has been involved in publishing the opposition Uzbek-language magazine Kharakat, covering political, social and human rights issues in Uzbekistan.

Birlik leader Abdurakhim Pulat, who is living in self-imposed exile in the U.S., said in an open letter Monday that the Russian police had arrested Khamrayev at the behest of Uzbekistan.

He said Uzbek authorities were angered with the increasingly open distribution of Kharakat issues inside Uzbekistan.

Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov said Tuesday he had no information on Khamrayev's arrest, saying "If Russian authorities have arrested him, it means they have had their reasons to do so."

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