by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
An AIDS activist in Uzbekistan, psychologist Maksim Popov, reportedly has been sentenced to seven years in prison because a brochure he was distributing allegedly encouraged immoral behavior and drug use.
He may also have been convicted of fiscal impropriety and other alleged crimes.
A website called uznews reported, “Maksim was found guilty on the charges of embezzling fund, involving minors in antisocial behaviour, molesting individuals aged under 16, concealing the hard currency, involving individuals in drugs and tax evasion.”
Other accounts said the charges regarding minors stemmed solely from the brochure’s alleged promotion of homosexuality.
In regard to the fiscal impropriety charges, a Facebook page called “Amnesty for Maksim Popov!” states: “The charges of fiscal impropriety come in the wake of years of harassment of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) by the Uzbek government via such measures as restricting or blocking access to foreign funds in bank accounts, repeated tax audits, and threatening visits from secret police or others urging NGO heads to close their organizations to avoid trouble. Popov kept (his organization) Izis open even when the government blocked all access to funds, operating without pay and in collaboration with local community councils and volunteers.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called all of the charges “fabricated.”
“A Tashkent court convicted Popov on six fabricated criminal charges, including embezzlement and concealment of funds, tax evasion, incitement to drugs use, corrupting minors, and provoking antisocial conduct,” the group said.
The pamphlet reportedly was funded in part by UNICEF, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Britain’s Department for International Development, Population Services International, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It is said to have provided detailed information on correct use of condoms and disposable syringes.
Reports said officials confiscated the entire print run and burned it.
Popov, 28, is said to be jailed in the city of Navoiy.
The Facebook page, which can be found at http://www.tinyurl.com/maksimp, also says:
“Those of us who have worked with Maxim Popov know him to be a witty, humble, curious, enthusiastic and effective educator and psychologist. We urge the international donors who supported him to … speak out for his release.”