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Annual Prison Census 2011 - Uzbekistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2011
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2011 - Uzbekistan, 8 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f0420a51d.html [accessed 24 October 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, 2011

Uzbekistan: 5

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

Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, and Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the paper, continued to serve lengthy prison terms in Uzbekistan. Regional press reports said Bekjanov was serving his term at a penal colony outside Kasan in southwestern Uzbekistan, while Ruzimuradov was being held at a penal colony outside Navoi in central Uzbekistan.

Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were detained in Ukraine – where they had lived in exile and produced their newspaper – and were extradited at the request of Uzbek authorities. Six months after their arrest, a Tashkent court sentenced Bekjanov to 14 years in prison and Ruzimuradov to a 15-year term on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both reporters 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, the two were jailed in high-security penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.

In a 2003 interview conducted at a prison hospital where he was being treated for tuberculosis, Bekjanov described being beaten and tortured in prison. He suffered a broken leg and hearing loss as a result, according to The Associated Press and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Bekjanov's wife, Nina Bekjanova, visited him in 2006 in prison, and told the independent news website Uznews that the journalist lost most of his teeth due to repeated beatings. Exiled Uzbek journalists, local human rights workers, and other CPJ sources in the region said they had unsuccessfully tried to obtain updated information about the well-being of the journalists. Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ's October 2011 request seeking information about the health and well-being of the two reporters.

Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance
Imprisoned: July 24, 2002

Mehliboyev, a contributor to the state-owned weekly Hurriyat, was being held in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan. He was arrested in the capital, Tashkent, while reporting on a rally held in support of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In February 2003, seven months after his arrest, a court in Tashkent convicted Mehliboyev of anticonstitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, a term that an appeals court reduced by six months.

Prosecutors introduced a 2001 Hurriyat article as evidence of his alleged crimes. In the article, Mehliboyev argued that instead of building a Western-style democracy in Uzbekistan, authorities should consider introducing religious rule. Prosecutors insisted in court that his arguments reflected the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir. At trial, Mehliboyev repeatedly said he was assaulted by guards at the pretrial facility where he was being held, local and international human rights groups reported at the time.

Mehliboyev was later sentenced to an additional prison term. In September 2006, the Tashkent regional court sentenced him to six more 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 detailing mistreatment in prison.

Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ's October 2011 request seeking updated information about Mehliboyev's status and well-being.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
Imprisoned: June 7, 2008

Abdurakhmanov, 61, a reporter for the independent news website Uznews, was being held at a penal colony outside the southern city of Karshi after he was convicted in a politicized prosecution on charges of possessing drugs with intent to sell. CPJ has determined the charges were fabricated.

Authorities in Nukus, in Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, detained Abdurakhmanov after traffic officers stopped his car 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. Abdurakhmanov denied possessing the drugs, and said police had planted them in retaliation for his reporting on corruption in the agency. Police questioned Abdurakhmanov extensively about his journalism, searched his home, and confiscated his personal computer, CPJ sources said.

The prosecution was marked by irregularities. Investigators failed to maintain chain of custody for the seized drugs, and they did not present fingerprints or other evidence that Abdurakhmanov ever handled the material, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov told CPJ. Ignoring the lack of evidence, a court in Nukus convicted the journalist in October 2008 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Higher courts denied his appeals.

Abdurakhmanov had reported on corruption in regional law enforcement agencies, including the traffic police, for Uznews. He also contributed to the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

In September 2011, authorities rebuffed Abdurakhmanov's application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, according to Uznews. Ilhom Nematov, Uzbekistan's ambassador to the United States, did not respond to CPJ's October 2011 request for information on Abdurakhmanov's well-being.

Dilmurod Saiid, freelance
Imprisoned: February 22, 2009

Saiid was serving a prison term of 12 and a half years on fabricated charges of extortion and forgery. Authorities arrested Saiid in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed him in detention in the central city of Samarkand after a local woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a local businessman. The accuser soon withdrew the accusation, saying she had been coerced, but authorities refused to release the journalist, according to Saiid's lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov.

In March 2009, Samarkand prosecutors said new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion, the independent regional news website Fergana News reported. Prosecutors also said several local farmers had accused Saiid of using their signatures to create fraudulent court papers. At Saiid's trial, Fergana News reported, the farmers publicly recanted and said prosecutors had pressured them to testify against the journalist.

Komilov told CPJ that authorities failed to notify him of court hearing dates. In July 2009, a Tailak District Court judge sentenced the journalist in a closed proceeding without Komilov, Saiid's family, or the press in attendance. Saiid was being held in a high-security penal colony outside the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan.

Saiid was imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism, CPJ's analysis found. 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 publications. As 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, regional press reports said. Ezgulik appealed for Saiid's release on humanitarian grounds, but the appeal was denied. In September 2011, authorities rejected Saiid's application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, Uznews reported.

Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ's October 2011 request seeking updated information about Saiid's well-being.

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