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AKIPRESS.COM - Uzbek authorities are removing large numbers of people from its blacklist of potential militants and political dissidents, state officials and media said, in a move likely to raise hopes for a more liberal climate in the ultra-secretive ex-Soviet republic, Reuters reports.
Western countries and rights activists have long criticized Uzbekistan's record on democracy and human rights and have accused it of using the blacklist indiscriminately to stifle political and religious dissent in the mainly Muslim nation.
Uzbekistan says it faces serious security threats, including from militant Islamists, but President Shavkat Mirziyoyev also needs to attract more foreign investment to help modernize the creaking economy and create sorely needed jobs.
He has recently made some tentative steps towards liberalizing rules on foreign exchange and exit visas and has spoken of the need to rehabilitate those who have been "misled" by radical groups.
The government has never said how many people are on its blacklist and has not publicly announced any reduction in the numbers, but state media have been running reports on the process, which in some cases has included public ceremonies.
Media said the process was the personal initiative of Mirziyoyev, who took control of Central Asia's most populous nation last September after the death of veteran strongman ruler Islam Karimov. Mirziyoyev was elected president last December.
Two state bodies - the Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) and the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan - both confirmed the process, though neither said how many people were involved nationwide.