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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to visit Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, over the coming days for a series of bilateral and multilateral talks with his counterparts. In response, T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA, released the following statement:

We strongly encourage Secretary Kerry to raise the issue of prisoners of conscience during his meetings with Uzbek officials. The government has arbitrarily extended the sentences of prisoners of conscience as a way of keeping them in jail for perpetuity. The arbitrary extensions are turning into de facto life sentences.

“Amnesty International has researched the supposed violations by prisoners of Article 221 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, which punishes violations of prison rules. In every case, the application of the article appears to be arbitrary and politically motivated.

“Secretary Kerry must use this opportunity to raise the issue of prisoners of conscience with Uzbek officials. He should request that the country immediately cease the abusive practice of arbitrarily extending sentences and instead release A’zam Farmonov, Isroil Kholdorov and Muhammad Bekzhanov, whose sentences were extended through this technique.”