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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbekistan: Jailed Poet's Health 'Satisfactory'

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Uzbekistan has denied a report that a poet jailed for supporting a banned opposition party had been tortured in prison and was dangerously ill.

The Uzbek Interior Ministry said Tuesday that Mamadali Makhmudov's health was "satisfactory." New York-based Human Rights Watch said last month Makhmudov had been beaten and was in "a dire physical condition and at a possible risk of death."

The Interior Ministry said in a statement: "During the period of his imprisonment he has not suffered any illnesses or asked for medical assistance."

Makhmudov was jailed for 14 years in 1999 for supporting a banned opposition party whose leader was accused by the authorities of masterminding a spate of bombings in February. One attack narrowly missed killing President Islam Karimov.

The ministry confirmed Makhmudov was in the Dzhazlyk prison in the north of the Central Asian state, which borders Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, but it denied that conditions in the prison were poor.

"The prison administration has not received complaints about Makhmudov regarding his living conditions," it said, adding that his family had visited him several times.

Human Rights Watch said Makhmudov had been tortured and underfed in the prison.

It said charges against him were trumped up and the trial had been held behind closed doors last year.

But the Interior Ministry said the court had proved Makhmudov had participated in a group led by former presidential candidate Mukhammad Salikh that had plotted to overthrow the government.

Salikh, speaking from exile, has denied the charges.

Western groups say the government jailed people after the bombings in the Uzbek capital Tashkent purely because of previous associations with Salikh or his party Erk.

Open political opposition does not exist in Uzbekistan but political analysts say growing poverty caused by isolationist economic policies as well as Karimov's leadership style are leading to growing dissent.