TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A civil court in Uzbekistan Tuesday denied the appeal of a prominent human rights group to lift a suspension against its activities in the Central Asian country.
The decision mandates that Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization (NGO) that has monitored rights in Uzbekistan since 1991, cease its activities for six months.
The appeal came on the heels of a Jan. 11 ruling by the Uzbek Ministry of Justice alleging the group had violated national laws concerning NGO operations. Charges included offering free internet access to citizens and hosting unregistered domestic groups at Freedom House events.
Uzbek prosecutors also alleged the U.S.-based group had failed to comply with a secret decree issued by the government which authorities would not specify.
"It is clear from the Ministry of Justice's actions that the Uzbek government has no intention of tolerating international NGOs whose purpose is to circulate information about how genuine democratic societies operate," said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director at Freedom House.
"This decision is the most recent in a series of deliberate actions by the Karimov government to isolate human rights activists within Uzbekistan from their supporters in the international community," she continued.
Harassment of individual Uzbeks, domestic and international NGOs promoting human rights by Uzbek authorities has increased since a May 2005 massacre in the city of Andijan, when the military and police opened fire on hundreds of protesters.
Several hundred people were reportedly killed in the attack.
Approximately 200 domestic rights groups have been forced to close down or leave the country in the past year, as have numerous international NGOs, including IREX, Internews, BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Open Society Institute.
Uzbekistan is now ranks among the world's most repressive regimes, according to a recent Freedom House survey.
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