Uzbek authorities suspect U.S.-funded aid group in violations

Uzbek authorities have ordered a six-month suspension of a U.S.-funded aid group for alleged violations, the group said Tuesday.

A court in the capital Tashkent made its ruling against the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) on Monday, finding it guilty of breaching the law on foreign aid groups, IREX said.

The move comes days after Uzbek authorities closed a U.S.-based media watchdog, Internews, in what rights groups see as part of a crackdown on Western non-governmental organizations by President Islam Karimov. He alleged that the NGOs aided the opposition in other ex-Soviet republics, according to the AP.

The crackdown intensified following Western criticism of the Uzbek government's quashing of a popular uprising in May.

The Uzbek Independent Committee for Freedom of Speech and Expression said on its Web site on Tuesday, citing a Justice Ministry letter, that IREX was blamed because some of its programs in Uzbekistan allegedly did not comply with its officially declared goals. It did not elaborate.

The Ministry also accused IREX of refusing to give detailed information on Uzbek citizens who studied in the United States under IREX-sponsored or administered programs and a list of participants of events held by IREX, according to the Committee.

IREX is an international nonprofit organization specializing in education, independent media, Internet development and civil society programs.

Last year, Uzbek authorities shut down the Tashkent office of George Soros' Open Society Institute, accusing it of anti-constitutional activity.

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