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U.S. envoy to Uzbekistan urges release of detained journalist

TASHKENT — The U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan has urged the Central Asian nation and its neighbor Kyrgyzstan to set free an Uzbek journalist detained on suspicion of anonymously criticizing the government on social media.

Western governments have rarely criticized Uzbekistan since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in late 2016, praising him for opening up the previously isolated nation of 34 million and releasing some prominent dissidents from prison.

But the U.S. ambassador to Tashkent, Daniel Rosenblum, said he was “deeply concerned” by the case of Bobomurod Abdullayev, who was detained this month in Kyrgyzstan at Uzbekistan’s request.

Abdullayev has told Kyrgyz media he was accused of being behind an anonymous Facebook account which published allegations of corruption among senior Uzbek officials. Uzbekistan is now seeking his extradition.

“The governments of both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan should respect Mr. Abdullayev’s freedom of movement and allow him to depart the Kyrgyz Republic to his destination of choice,” Rosenblum tweeted late on Thursday.

“President Mirziyoyev spoke eloquently about media freedom and journalists’ rights in his Constitution Day speech last December, and many times since. The U.S. agrees that a free and independent media is indispensable to a functioning democracy.”

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