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Brussels 7 December 2010.  A statement published today by the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan and the International Partnership for Human Rights highlights the continued persecution of Uzbek Muslims who exercise their faith peacefully, but outside strict state controls. In the framework of the fight against religious “extremism” in Uzbekistan, independent Muslims are arrested, prosecuted and convicted of “extremist” crimes in unfair trials because of non-violent activities, such as praying in non-sanctioned mosques, studying non-approved literature or meeting with other believers in their homes. Torture and ill-treatment is widely used to pressure individuals accused of “extremism” to “confess” and to punish them for their religious practices.The joint statement is based on information obtained by the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan through monitoring and interviews conducted with victims of religious persecution and their relatives and lawyers. It has been prepared as a contribution to the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which takes place in Vienna on 9-10 December 2010.

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