Uzbek authorities have opened a criminal investigation into a private U.S. aid group after its office was shut down last month for publishing a book that allegedly distorted Islam.
The Tashkent prosecutor's office said Monday the management of Winrock International will be investigated for unlicensed publishing activity.
The prosecutor's office statement quoted Aktam Jalilov, an expert of the government-backed Fund for Regional Politics, as saying that "certain Western circles ... are trying to turn newly independent (Central Asian) states into easily manageable puppet countries" through aid groups.
The case against Winrock is linked to its publication of the book Islam and Women under a project to improve conditions for women in rural areas. Uzbek authorities said the book distorted Islam and traditional Uzbek values.
President Islam Karimov has mounted a campaign against foreign aid groups in apparent retaliation for the strong Western criticism of the bloody suppression of a revolt last year.
The government blamed Islamic militants for the uprising and said 187 people died in the eastern city of Andijan. Rights groups and witnesses said hundreds of civilians were killed in the government crackdown.
Dozens of aid groups and several foreign media outlets have been forced out of the Central Asian nation, accused of various misdeeds ranging from illegal proselytizing to espionage.
Under Karimov, Uzbekistan tolerates no dissent and prohibits religious expression outside of state-sponsored religious institutions.