Uzbek dissident released in Sweden

An exiled Uzbek dissident wanted on an Interpol warrant was arrested at Sweden 's biggest airport, but released after investigators found out he had been granted asylum in neighboring Norway , police and prosecutors said Friday.

Human Rights Watch criticized the arrest of Mohammad Solikh, a leader of a banned opposition group in Uzbekistan , but Swedish authorities said they had followed normal procedures.

Solikh was arrested by border police at Stockholm 's Arlanda international airport on Tuesday, Arlanda police commander Yvonne Lindholm said.

"He got stuck in the passport control as an internationally wanted person," she said.

Solikh was held overnight, but released Wednesday afternoon after investigators realized he had been granted political asylum in Norway , said Lena Bjorken at Stockholm 's international prosecutorial chamber.

In a news release, Human Rights Watch called the detention "wrongful" and said it "highlights the lack of a strong European Union policy toward Uzbekistan ."

"Given the Uzbek government's notorious record of politically motivated persecution, any such arrest warrant should be viewed with skepticism," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The Swedish government owes Solikh an apology, and must ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent similar mistakes."

Both Bjorken and Lindholm said Swedish authorities just did their duty in following up on an Interpol arrest warrant.

Solikh is a leader of Erk, or Freedom, one of the first democratic parties to emerge in Uzbekistan during Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika campaign of the late 1980s.

Several Erk activists, including Solikh's brother, are currently in jail.

Rights groups say Uzbek authorities are holding up to 6,000 dissident Muslims in jail for alleged religious extremism, punishing them for practicing Islam outside state-run institutions, reports the AP.

I.L.