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Annual Prison Census 2010 - Uzbekistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2010
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2010 - Uzbekistan, 8 December 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d4977df24.html [accessed 19 April 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, 2010

Uzbekistan: 6

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

Arrested and imprisoned in 1999, Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, and Ruzimuradov, reporter for the paper, continued to serve lengthy prison terms in Uzbekistan. A court in the capital, Tashkent, handed Bekjanov a 14-year jail term, while Ruzimuradov was given a 15-year sentence on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper that criticized President Islam Karimov. The two journalists were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest, and attempting to overthrow the regime.

According to CPJ sources and news reports, both men were tortured before their trial started. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, both were jailed in strict-security penal colonies for individuals sentenced for committing serious crimes. Bekjanov was imprisoned in the city of Navoi, and Ruzimuradov in a village near the city of Karshi. Immediately after the journalists' arrest, their families fled to the United States, Erk Party Secretary-General Aranazar Arifov told CPJ at the time.

In a 2003 interview he gave from a prison hospital where he was treated for tuberculosis he contracted in prison, Bekjanov described being beaten and tortured in prison. According to The Associated Press and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Bekjanov suffered a broken leg and hearing loss as a result.

After visiting her husband in prison in 2006, Nina Bekjanova told the independent news website Uznewsthe journalist had been subjected to beatings that caused him to lose most of his teeth. In 2007, Bekjanov was transferred to prison in the southwestern city of Kasan, according to the independent news website Uznews.

Exiled Uzbek journalists, local human rights workers, and other CPJ sources in the region said they had unsuccessfully tried to obtain any updated information about the whereabouts and well-being of Ruzimuradov. Uzbekistan's Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ's written request in November seeking information on the health, legal status, and whereabouts of the two journalists.

Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance
Imprisoned: July 24, 2002

A contributor to the state-owned weekly Hurriyat, Mehliboyev was arrested while covering a rally in Tashkent in support of the banned Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation).

After he spent six months in detention, a Tashkent court convicted Mehliboyev of anti-constitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred, and sentenced him to seven years in prison. To support the charges, prosecutors presented the court with political commentary the journalist had written in the spring 2001 edition of Hurriyat. In the commentary, Mehliboyev argued that Uzbek authorities should give preference to religious rule over Western-style democracy. Prosecutors insisted his arguments contained ideas of 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 website 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 criticized the conditions of his imprisonment and described torture he said he was subjected to.

According to the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik, Mehliboyev is serving his term in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan.

Dzhamshid Karimov, freelance
Imprisoned: September 12, 2006

Authorities in the central Jizzakh region forced Karimov, a freelance journalist and nephew of President Islam Karimov, into a psychiatric facility in the city of Samarkand. The Uzbek government refused to provide access to Karimov or release information that would allow independent experts to verify the reasons for his involuntary confinement, according to international rights groups. CPJ research shows authorities did not disclose a court order or medical diagnosis that had led to the journalist's 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.

Before the detention, regional authorities had followed Karimov and closely monitored his journalism, according to local news reports. A month before his arrest, police confiscated his passport after he submitted the document seeking an exit visa to attend a journalism seminar in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
Imprisoned: June 7, 2008

Abdurakhmanov, 60, was being held at a penal colony outside the southern city of Karshi, where he was transferred in October 2008 after a politicized prosecution on trumped-up charges of drug possession.

Based in the western city of Nukus, in Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, Abdurakhmanov covered human rights, social and economic issues for the independent news website Uznews. Among the topics he covered was corruption in local law enforcement agencies, including traffic police. He had contributed to the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, along with the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, before the government imposed restrictions on independent reporting after the Andijan massacre of 2005.

Abdurakhmanov was detained on charges of drug possession with intent to use after regional traffic officers stopped his car for a check and claimed they had found four ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter ounce (about five grams) of opium in his trunk, Uznews reported. The journalist denied possessing the drugs and said police had planted them.

The journalist's prosecution was marred with procedural violations, CPJ research shows. Investigators interrogated Abdurakhmanov about his journalism and the publications to which he contributed – not about the origins of narcotics they had allegedly found. They also searched his home and confiscated his personal computer, sources told CPJ. After the journalist's initial blood tests revealed no traces of narcotics, authorities refused to free him and instead changed the charge to drug possession with intent to distribute, Uznews reported.

Authorities failed to establish a proper chain of custody for the seized drugs and prosecutors failed to present fingerprints collected from the seized narcotics containers, Abdurakhmanov's lawyer, Rustam Tulyaganov, told CPJ. But a court in Nukus convicted Abdurakhmanov in October 2008, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison a month later. Appeals in the case were denied.

Dilmurod Saiid, freelance
Imprisoned: February 22, 2009

Regional authorities arrested Saiid in Tashkent and placed him in detention in the city of Samarkand after a local woman told prosecutors that the journalist had ordered her to extort US$10,000 from a local businessman, according to press reports and CPJ sources. Although the woman later withdrew her accusation, saying she was forced to make it, authorities did not release Saiid.

In March 2009, prosecutors announced that new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion, the independent news website Ferghana reported. Prosecutors also added a forgery charge based on purported statements from local farmers who alleged that Saiid had used their signatures to create fraudulent court papers. According to Ferghana, the farmers announced at Saiid's trial that prosecutors had forced them to testify against the journalist.

Authorities failed to notify Saiid's lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, of court hearing dates, Komilov told CPJ. In July 2009, a Tailak District Court judge sentenced the journalist in a closed proceeding without his defense lawyer, family, or the press in attendance. According to press reports and CPJ sources, Saiid was convicted on all charges, handed a 12-and-a-half-year prison term, and transferred to a strict-security penal colony outside the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan. The prison is known for holding many political prisoners.

Before his imprisonment, Saiid had reported on official abuses against farmers for the independent regional news website Voice of Freedom as well as for 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, local sources told CPJ.

In November 2009, the journalist's wife and 6-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident while on their way to visit him in prison, Ferghana reported. Ezgulik appealed for Saiid's release on humanitarian grounds, but the appeal was denied. In August, Uzbekistan's Supreme Court denied Saiid's appeal.

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