Uzbekistan Delays Karimov’s Prague Visit After Criticism

Uzbekistan postponed President Islam Karimov’s visit next week to Prague, three days after human-rights groups criticized the planned trip and urged the Czech head of state to cancel it.

The trip was to take place Feb. 20-21, when Prague schools are off on spring break, which would make it impossible to organize a lunch with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Czech President Milos Zeman’s office said in an e-mailed statement today. Five out of six Czech ministers excused themselves from signing bilateral treaties, the office said. It gave no new date for the visit.

Thirty non-government organizations including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Norwegian Helsinki Committee called on Zeman on Feb. 10 to cancel Karimov’s visit, calling his regime repressive.

Zeman at the time rejected the motion, saying Karimov had been invited by his predecessor Vaclav Klaus after he visited Uzbekistan. Zeman also said that European Union officials had recently met with Karimov in Brussels, and that the U.S. considers Uzbekistan an ally in the fight against “terrorism.”

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