Uzbekistan Accuses U.S. of having Double Standards on Religious Freedom

November 24, 2006

Source: North County Times

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Uzbekistan accused the United States of practicing double standards on human rights issues Friday after Washington listed the former Soviet republic as one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom.

Last week, Uzbekistan was included in the annual State Department list of "countries of particular concern," which have a record of denying their citizens basic religious freedom and human rights.

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry said the inclusion "again shows the one-sided approach and double standards of U.S. foreign policy," according to a statement posted on a government Web site.

The statement said the predominantly Muslim, Central Asian state pursues religious tolerance, citing the government's "criticism of caricatures mocking Prophet Mohammed and the irresponsible statements of Pope Benedict XVI on Islam."

Since the late 1990s, thousands of peaceful Muslims worshipping outside state-sanctioned mosques have been branded Islamic radicals and jailed on what human rights activists say were trumped-up charges. Some, rights advocates say, have been tortured.