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Daily Archives: August 5, 2009

Uzbekistan must free imprisoned journalist

Leading rights watchdog Human Rights Watch yesterday called on authorities in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan to release a prominent journalist jailed last week on what they say are false charges.
The New York-based organization alleged that opposition journalist Dilmurod Saidov was sentenced to 12 years in prison on blackmailing and forgery charges as punishment for his work in uncovering corruption.
"Dilmurod Saidov is well known for his courageous work to expose rampant corruption in Uzbekistan, and this conviction is clearly an attempt to stop him," said Holly Cartner, the groups's Europe and Central Asia director.
"The trial was a travesty of justice, and Saidov should be freed immediately." The journalist's name has also been given by other sources as Dilmurod Sayid.
The group, citing its own investigation into the events of the case, said that the trial was "riddled with procedural violations", and that several witnesses had ultimately recanted their testimony.
Saidov had been defending the interests of local farmers during the restructuring of the Uzbek agricultural sector and had a history of disputes with the authorities.
The journalist, who caused a stir in 2005 by publishing an article that challenged official claims on the standard of living in Uzbekistan, has already served two previous jail sentences, totaling two-and-a-half years.
Uzbekistan – an isolated Central Asian state ruled since its independence by strongman President Islam Karimov – is widely believed to have thousands of political prisoners in a network of prison camps across the country.

Treatment resistant swine flu detected in US

Health officials said they had found cases of Tamiflu-resistant swine flu along the US border with Mexico, as India and South Africa announced their first deaths from the A(H1N1) virus.
"We have found resistance to Tamiflu on the border. We have observed some cases, few to be sure, in El Paso and close to McAllen, Texas," said Maria Teresa Cerqueira, head of the Pan-American Health Organization office in La Jolla, California.
Cases of A(H1N1) that were resistant to the anti-viral medicine have now been found in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong and Japan.
Experts had gathered in La Jolla on Monday to discuss the response to the outbreak, and warned that resistant strains were likely emerging because of overuse of antivirals like Tamiflu.
"In the United States Tamiflu is sold with a prescription, but in Mexico and Canada it is sold freely and taken at the first sneeze. Then, when it is really needed, it doesn't work," said Cerqueira.
The Tamiflu-resistant cases were reported as South Africa and India both announced their first fatalities from the A(H1N1) virus, which emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread worldwide, gaining pandemic status.
In South Africa, health authorities said Ruan Muller, a 22-year-old student at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town, had died after contracting the virus.
"He died on the 28th [of July], but there had to be some testing done to ensure the cause of death. It was the A (H1N1) influenza," said Fidel Hadebe, spokesman for South Africa's Department of Health.
With the world's highest number of HIV/AIDS-affected people – nearly 19 percent of a 49-million-person population – South Africa is considered particularly at risk because people with compromised immunity are more likely to fall prey to the disease.
South Africa's swine flu caseload has increased fourfold since the country's first case was reported on June 14. The government has said its stockpile of Tamiflu will only be used for the seriously ill, but that schools may also be closed on a case-by-case basis.
Experts remain puzzled as to why different countries have not always been affected to the same degree, with England and Scotland both heavily hit proportionately, yet neighboring France's tally appearing light by comparison.
Some have argued that gargantuan sums being spent by rich economies on a disease that is no more lethal than seasonal flu are grotesquely disproportionate when thousands die each day of diseases which receive less media coverage.