Uzbekistan: Celebrated Rights Lawyer Dies, Aged 69
After many years of being denied permission to leave Uzbekistan, human rights activist and lawyer Polina Braunerg died on May 19 in a hospital in the capital, Tashkent, at 69 years of age.
Her career defending the most desperate and hopeless cases imaginable was marked by remarkable bravery — the kind that only ever welcomes trouble.
In one typical grim episode in the early years after independence, on one evening in mid-March 1996, a gang of officers from National Security Service, military intelligence and an investigator from the military prosecutor’s office barged into her home. Braunerg had already by that time gained some fame as an activist and had a seat on the board of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan.
The official reason offered for this heavy-handed visit was that Braunerg was purportedly engaged in the illegal trade of metals. Such attempts to pursue flimsy criminal cases against activists were and remain standard protocol for neutralising critics of the government.
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