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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbek Activist Severely Beaten

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- A leading Uzbek human rights activist was severely beaten by unknown assailants in Tashkent on Thursday -- an attack that his supporters say is linked to his human rights activity.

Surat Ikramov was admitted to the hospital Thursday afternoon with a concussion, two broken ribs, bruises and swelling on his face.

Speaking from the hospital, Ikramov told reporters that four men had dragged him out of his car at 10:30 a.m., put a bag on his head, tied his hands and legs and put him in a car. He was taken to a park and kicked and beaten with sticks for about an hour, Ikramov said. The assailants, he said, wore masks and some military-type uniform. They demanded that Ikramov pay them $10,000 but did not say why.

After managing to take off the bag from his head and freeing his hands and legs, Ikramov crawled for nearly four hours to get to the nearest traffic police station and called his family and colleagues. "I was expecting it," he said. "I have been getting threats on the phone recently."

Ikramov leads an independent human rights group that defends the rights of dissident Muslims. Most recently, Ikramov has been actively involved in the campaign in support of journalist Ruslan Sharipov, who was convicted earlier this month on sodomy charges that rights activists say are politically motivated.