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Dine Welcomes Release of Salih

(Prague, Czech Republic — 11 December 2001) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine welcomed the release of exiled Uzbek human rights activist Muhammad Salih from custody in a Prague jail, where Salikh was being held on an international arrest warrant.

“I’m delighted that Mr. Salih has been released from detention,” Dine said. “I have always believed Salkh to be a fair, honest, and brave person promoting human rights and democratic institutions and political processes in his homeland. I am sure that Salih will soon be able to return to his family in Norway.”

Salih was detained by the Czech authorities at Prague’s Ruzyne airport on an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol at the initiative of the Uzbek government. Salih has been accused by the Uzbek government of involvement in bombings committed by Islamic militants in Tashkent in February 1999. Salih has not been in Uzbekistan since 1994, but was tried and sentenced in absentia last year to 15 and a half years imprisonment. Salih has consistently denied these charges, most recently at a press conference at RFE/RL’s Prague Broadcast Center today after his release.

A Czech court must now decide whether to extradite Salih to Uzbekistan. The Norwegian government — where Salih was granted political asylum — and many non-governmental organizations worldwide have called for his being allowed to return to Norway.

Salih will meet with Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday. Salih pledged to remain in the Czech Republic until the outcome of his case is decided.