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Weekly news wrap

Human rights dominated the news in Central Asia this week, a region continually plagued by reports of ongoing human rights abuses. On Tuesday, Moscow deported an Uzbek man to his home country, despite a last-minute order by the European Court of Human Rights that the deportation be stayed pending a review.

Rustam Muminov was sent back to Uzbekistan about 20 minutes after the court, whose decisions are legally binding on Russia, issued an injunction to stop the deportation, the Washington Post reported - a move prompting rights groups to react.

"Our greatest concern is for Muminov's protection from torture or other ill treatment," Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said. "Russia must take immediate steps to reverse its action of placing Muminov in harm's way."

According to the watchdog group, torture in Uzbek detention centres is routine and well-documented, particularly against those accused of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic organisation that is banned in the Central Asian republic.

Wanted in Uzbekistan on charges of belonging to the group, Muminov was detained on 17 October at the offices of a migrants' rights group in Moscow.

Tashkent has a poor human rights record observers contend and this week's conclusion of a European Union (EU) delegation to the southern Uzbek city of Andijan - where upwards of 1,000 people were reportedly killed at the hands of security forces during anti-government demonstrations on 13 May 2005 - only underscores that.

Hundreds fled to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan following the revolt, which has yet to be fully investigated, despite international calls for a full independent inquiry.

Led by Pierre Morel, the EU's newly-appointed special representative to Central Asia, this was the third visit by representatives since the EU suspended high-level contacts with Tashkent in the wake of the military crackdown, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported, noting that the EU was due to decide in November whether to expand the sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan since the events in Andijan.

Staying with human rights, Amnesty International (AI) announced on Thursday it had learnt that Turkmen prisoner of conscience Kakabay Tedzhenov, 70, had been released from a psychiatric hospital in Garashsyzlyk district in the eastern Lebap region of Turkmenistan.

Tedzhenov had been forcibly confined in medical institutions since 4 January 2006 in punishment for speaking out against the government of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, the rights group reported. Niyazov has ruled the country with an iron fist ever since the Turkmenistan gained its independence following the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991.

In other news, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan will likely face a cold winter this year following a decision by Uzbekistan to almost double the price of its natural gas exports. According to the Asia Pulse business wire, analysts say both countries will have to seriously consider whether they can pay the higher price or reduce their gas imports.

Tashkent's move follows September's decision by Turkmenistan, another major regional gas producer, that it would charge Russia's Gazprom US $100 per 1,000 m3 for its gas, a price hike repeated by Uzbekistan.

Paying $55 per 1,000 m3, Tajikistan currently imports about 600 million m3 a year of gas, while Kyrgyzstan imports 700 million m3.

Meanwhile in Turkmenistan, Niyazov this week called on his country's parliament to ensure free natural gas, power and water to every citizen in the energy-rich nation until 2030.

"This decision would help ensure a carefree life for our people," the Turkmen lead said on Wednesday, adding that the nation had enough hydrocarbons to last 250 years, the AP reported.

Niyazov, who prefers to be called Father of All Turkmen, first decreed in 1993 that all residents of the former Soviet nation receive gas, electricity, water and salt free of charge for a decade, and in 2003 had the move extended until 2020, the report said.

Finally, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called on member states on Wednesday to examine how they accredit journalists to take steps to balance security concerns with commitments to freedom of expression.

Accreditation should not be the basis on which governmental bodies decide whether to allow a particular journalist to attend and cover a public event, according to a report by Miklos Haraszti, media freedom representative at the Vienna-based OSCE.

The report, which examined specific cases and was presented to the 56-member organisation's Permanent Council, recommended that governments adopt procedures that enable journalists to work in a host country, such as issuing visas promptly.

The threat of revocation of accreditation for an event should not be used as a means to control the content of critical reporting, the report said.

"We have observed a growing number of cases in different OSCE participating states where the misuse of accreditation has prevented coverage of events deemed to be of public interest," Haraszti said in a statement.

As examples of misuse of accreditation as a mechanism by which to control journalists' content, the report cited recent incidents involving journalists in Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

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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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