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Weekly news wrap

In Central Asia this week, the Turkmen authorities announced they had arrested suspects involved in the attempted assassination of the president, Saparmurad Niyazov on 25 November, according to reports from the country's capital, Ashgabat. Niyazov was attacked by gunmen while travelling to the presidential palace. Niyazov's motorcade reportedly came under fire as he travelled to work Monday morning. Niyazov was not hurt, but several bystanders and a security officer were injured in an exchange of gunfire. He has held absolute power in Turkmenistan for more than a decade. The Turkmen Attorney General, Kurbanbibi Atadzhanova said a number of former Turkmen politicians masterminded the attack. The accused were the former first deputy agriculture minister, Saparmurat Yklymov, former deputy prime ministers, Boris Shikhmuladov and Hudayberdy Orazob and the former Turkmen ambassador to Turkey, Nurmuxamed Hanamov, none of whom are currently living in the former Soviet Republic. Other suspects included three Chechens, six Turks, one Moldavian, one Armenian and 12 Turkmens. According to the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, the plotters employed their hit men for US $25,000 each and promised that the family of each would receive compensation of US $50,000 if killed during the assassination attempt. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the international community to condemn the recent verdict in the trial of Iskandar Khudoiberganov, sentenced to death for allegedly propagating religious extremism in Uzbekistan. The watchdog group issued a statement saying that Judge Nizamiddin Rustamov sentenced Khudoiberganov to death on 28 November, ignoring testimony by the accused and two witnesses that their confessions and incriminating statements were obtained through torture. In a more positive move, Uzbekistan announced that it would pardon more than half of its prisoners, out of some 40,000, including those jailed for dissent, according to local media reports. Human rights activists estimate there are 6,400 political prisoners in Uzbek jails, with torture widespread. The amnesty, announced by state media, would start later this month to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the country's new constitution. A decree by Uzbek president, Islam Karimov said: "Religious extremists and those who committed crimes against the constitutional order, convicted for the first time and for terms less than 10 years, would be freed or have their sentences reduced”. The move coincided with a visit by the UN's rapporteur for torture on a two-week tour to the nation. In 2001, Uzbek authorities freed over 20,000 prisoners in a similar move. The Russian military news agency, Interfax reported that 80 Tajik immigrants were deported from Moscow to their homeland on 29 November. They were flown back in an IL-76 Candid military plane after being found to be illegal citizens, the report said. This was the second wave of deportations in two weeks. Last week more than 100 Tajiks were sent backto the capital, Dushanbe. Tajik President, Emomali Rahmonov, is said to have expressed concern over the deportations. Also in Tajikistan, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced that it planned to lend US $120 million to the country between 2003-2005, with an additional US $10 million in grants and technical aid. According to an agreement signed between the ADB and the Tajik authorities, the money will be spent primarily on poverty reduction programmes over the next 13 years. The aim will be to reduce poverty by half and ensure that 90 percent of the population has access to primary education, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency reported. In Kazakhstan, another regional strongman, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, made a commitment to the European Union to improve his poor human rights but said he would not free jailed opposition journalist, Sergei Duvanov, Reuters reported. Duvanov, a prominent human rights journalist and critic of Nazarbayev’s authoritarian regime, was arrested and jailed on 27 October for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl. But oppositionists say the case has been fabricated and are calling for his immediate release. The State Department, European Union (EU) and human rights groups have expressed concern over the detention and are appealing for Duvanov’s release or a fair and transparent trial. Finally in Iran, clerics and lawyers approved a bill giving women greater rights to divorce, a Reuters report this week said. At present,, a man can divorce his wife whenever he wants to, but a woman can only divorce her husband if he signs a contract allowing her to do so or if he turns out to be a drug addict, mentally ill or impotent. The bill was passed following calls from Iranian women’s organisations, who asked for a law to clarify under what circumstances a woman can seek a divorce.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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