Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August 2014, 11:05 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2009: Uzbekistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2009
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2009: Uzbekistan, 8 December 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b220c9a5.html [accessed 21 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2009

Uzbekistan: 7

Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk
Imprisoned: March 15, 1999

A court in the capital, Tashkent, sentenced Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, to 14 years in prison and Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the paper, to 15 years in prison. They were convicted of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper that criticized President Islam Karimov, participating in a banned political protest, and attempting to overthrow the regime.

Both men were tortured during their pretrial detention in Tashkent City Prison, which left them with serious injuries, Tashkent-based human rights activists told CPJ. On November 15, 1999, Bekjanov was transferred to "strict-regime" Penal Colony 64/46 in the city of Navoi. Ruzimuradov was transferred to "strict-regime" Penal Colony 64/33 in the village of Shakhali, near the southern city of Karshi.

The wives and children of both men fled to the United States in 1999 after their arrests, Erk Party Secretary-General Aranazar Arifov told CPJ.

In 2003, reporters with the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and The Associated Press interviewed Bekjanov in the Tashkent Prison Hospital while he was being treated for tuberculosis he contracted in prison. In the interview, the journalist described torture and beatings that resulted in a broken leg and hearing loss in his right ear, IWPR reported.

In 2007, Bekjanov was jailed in the southwestern city of Kasan, according to the independent news Web site Uznews. His wife, Nina Bekjanova, who was allowed to visit him in October 2006, said he told her that he was still subjected to beatings and torture that caused him to lose most of his teeth, among other things, Uznews reported.

Exiled journalists, human rights workers, and other CPJ sources said they did not know of Ruzimuradov's whereabouts or health.

Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance
Imprisoned: July 24, 2002

Authorities arrested Mehliboyev, a contributor to the state-run weekly Hurriyat, at a Tashkent protest rally in support of the banned Islamist opposition party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Following his arrest, Tashkent police raided his room at a local hostel and seized what they described as extremist religious literature.

Mehliboyev spent six months in pretrial detention before he was taken to court in February 2003. In court, prosecutors said he was a member of a religious extremist group and presented political commentary he had written in the spring 2001 edition of Hurriyat as evidence. In the commentary, the journalist argued that Uzbek authorities should give preference to religious ruleover Western-style democracy. Prosecutors insisted his arguments contained ideas from the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Although Mehliboyev said repeatedly during the trial that he had been beaten in prison, the court ignored his statements, a Tashkent-based representative of Human Rights Watch told CPJ at the time.

On February 18, 2003, a district court in Tashkent sentenced Mehliboyev to seven years in prison on charges of anticonstitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred, according to local and international news reports. An appeals court later cut his term by six months.

While in custody, Mehliboyev was sentenced to yet another prison term. In September 2006, the Tashkent regional court sentenced him to six additional years on extremism charges, the independent news Web site Uznews reported. Prison authorities claimed the journalist advocated Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas to other inmates and kept religious writings in his cell. Mehliboyev denied the accusations; he said he had kept only private notes in which he described prison conditions and his treatment.

According to the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik, Mehliboyev was serving his term in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan, where he had reportedly been abused.

Ortikali Namazov, Pop Tongi and Kishlok Khayoti
Imprisoned: August 11, 2004

Authorities convicted Namazov of embezzlement after he wrote several critical articles alleging regional government malfeasance in land management and fiscal auditing, local rights activists reported at the time. He was the editor of the state newspaper Pop Tongi and correspondent for the state newspaper Kishlok Khayoti.

Enraged by Namazov's critique, authorities in the eastern region of Namangan opened a criminal probe against the journalist and his accountants, alleging misuse of newspaper funds and tax evasion. On August 4, 2004, the Turakurgan District Criminal Court in the Namangan region started proceedings.

The journalist said the case had been fabricated in retaliation for his reporting. According to local activists who monitored the trial, prosecutors failed to prove the charges and the judge did not allow Namazov to defend himself. His family reported that their home phone line was cut and that his daughter was suddenly dismissed from her job as a school doctor, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, a local rights activist, told CPJ.

The journalist was sentenced to five and a half years in jail, and his appeal was denied. He was serving his sentence at a prison in eastern Namangan.

Dzhamshid Karimov, freelance
Imprisoned: September 12, 2006

In September 2006, authorities in the central Jizzakh region forced Dzhamshid Karimov, a freelance journalist and nephew of President Islam Karimov, into a psychiatric facility in the city of Samarkand. He remained there without access to a lawyer, family, or friends.

According to international rights groups, Uzbek authorities refused to provide access to or release information that would allow independent experts to verify the reasons for Karimov's involuntary confinement. Authorities have not disclosed the court order that led to his forced hospitalization.

Karimov contributed to the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and a number of independent newspapers and regional online publications. He often criticized the social and economic policies of local and national authorities.

Prior to the detention, Jizzakh authorities had followed Karimov and closely monitored his journalism, according to local news reports. In August 2006, police confiscated his passport when he sought an exit visa to attend a journalism seminar in Kyrgyzstan.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
Imprisoned: June 7, 2008

Authorities in the western city of Nukus arrested Abdurakhmanov after traffic police claimed they found four ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter ounce (about five grams) of opium in his trunk, the independent news Web site Uznews reported. Authorities initially charged the journalist with drug possession intended for personal use.

Abdurakhmanov covered human rights and economic and social issues for Uznews and, in the past, had reported for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

The journalist and his lawyers said police planted the drugs in retaliation for his critical reporting. Before his arrest, he had detailed alleged corruption in the regional traffic police for Uznews.

After Abdurakhmanov's initial blood tests revealed no traces of narcotics, authorities changed the charge to drug possession with intent to distribute, Uznews reported. During the pretrial investigation, authorities questioned him primarily about his journalistic sources and the news outlets to which he contributed, said the journalist's brother, Bakhrom, a lawyer who helped with the defense. Galima Bukharbayeva, editor of Uznews and a 2005 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee, said police also searched the journalist's house and confiscated his personal computer along with literature on banned Uzbek opposition leader Muhammad Salikh.

A district court in Nukus heard the case in September 2008. During Abdurakhmanov's trial, his defense lawyer, Rustam Tulyaganov, said, authorities failed to establish a proper chain of custody for the seized drugs. No evidence was offered showing that his fingerprints were on the seized bag. Tulyaganov said prosecutors presented a video in court, purporting to show the seizure of the drugs, but he said the video lacked essential context; for example, a police dog said to have barked at the odor of drugs was not seen at all on the video.

On October 10, 2008, Judge Kadyrbai Dzhamolov sentenced Abdurakhmanov to 10 years in prison. According to Uznews, the journalist was serving his term in a penal colony outside the southern city of Karshi. His health had deteriorated, but prison authorities refused to provide medical treatment, his relatives told Uznews.

Dilmurod Saiid, freelance
Imprisoned: February 22, 2009

Samarkand regional prosecutors seized Saiid at his home in the capital, Tashkent, after a local woman purportedly told prosecutors that she had extorted US$10,000 from a local businessman on the journalist's order, local press reports said. She withdrew her statement days later and said it had been fabricated.

But Saiid remained in custody and, in March, prosecutors announced that they had found another witness to say that he had extorted money – this time, US$5,000 in a supposed 2004 incident, the regional news Web site Ferghana reported. Prosecutors added a forgery charge based on purported statements from local farmers saying that he had used their signatures to create fraudulent court documents.

Before his arrest, the journalist had reported on government agricultural abuses for the independent regional news Web site Voice of Freedom as well as a number of local newspapers. A member of the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik, Saiid had also helped local farmers defend their rights in regional courts, sources told CPJ.

Saiid's lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, said the proceedings were riddled with procedural violations, notably that officials failed to notify him of hearing dates in the case. Human Rights Watch reported that most prosecution witnesses said their statements against the journalist had been falsified.

On July 30, the Tailak District Court in Samarkand convicted Saiid and sentenced him to 12 and a half years in prison, Ferghana reported. The journalist was sentenced in a closed proceeding without his defense lawyer, family, or the press in attendance. According to Voice of Freedom, Saiid was transferred to a strict-regime penal colony outside the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan; the prison is known for its large concentration of political prisoners.

In November, Saiid's wife and 6-year-old daughter died in a car accident while on their way to visit him in prison, Ferghana reported. Ezgulik appealed for Saiid's release on humanitarian grounds.

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