Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2013

Uzbekistan: 4

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

Bekjanov, editor of the opposition newspaper Erk, and Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the paper, are the two longest-imprisoned journalists worldwide, CPJ research shows. Both journalists were jailed on politicized anti-state charges after extradition from Ukraine.

In January 2012, shortly before Bekjanov's scheduled release, authorities sentenced him to another five years in prison for allegedly violating unspecified prison rules, regional press reports said. Bekjanov was being held at a prison colony outside Kasan, southwestern Uzbekistan, in late 2013.

Ruzimuradov was last known to be serving a 15-year prison term in a penal colony outside Navoi, central Uzbekistan. Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ's request for information about Ruzimuradov's whereabouts, legal status, or well-being. Authorities also ignored a similar inquiry sent by 12 members of the U.S. Senate in June 2013.

Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were first 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 convicted them on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest and attempting to overthrow the regime.

Both men were tortured before their trial began, according to CPJ sources and news reports. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, the two were jailed in high-security penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.

Nina Bekjanova, the editor's wife, told reporters that his health had deteriorated when she visited him in jail in March 2013. Bekjanova said her husband needed immediate treatment for a hernia and a relapse of tuberculosis, according to Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek service of the U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She said the editor had not complained about his health to her during her previous visits, but that when she visited him in March, he had said, "There's not much longer left [for me] to suffer."

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
Imprisoned: June 7, 2008

Abdurakhmanov, a reporter for the independent news website Uznews, was imprisoned in June 2008, immediately after traffic police in Nukus, in Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, stopped his car and said they 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 narcotics, and said the police agents had planted them in retaliation for his reporting on corruption in their agency.

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.

Abdurakhmanov's prosecution and trial were marred by irregularities, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov told CPJ at the time. Investigators failed to maintain chain of custody for the seized drugs, and they did not collect fingerprints or other evidence proving that the journalist ever handled the material, Tulyaganov said.

Instead, police agents interrogated Abdurakhmanov, extensively focusing on his journalism, searched his home, and confiscated his personal computer. According to Uznews, authorities also offered Abdurakhmanov a deal-to give up his journalism and human rights activism in exchange for amnesty and release-but the journalist refused.

In October 2008, a court in Nukus convicted Abdurakhmanov and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Higher courts denied his appeals.

In September 2011, authorities denied Abdurakhmanov's application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, according to CPJ research. Uznews reported in November 2012 that prison authorities obstructed the International Committee of the Red Cross when it sought to speak with Abdurakhmanov in prison. Abdurakhmanov's son told Uznews that prison officials presented Red Cross staff with another detainee who unsuccessfully purported to be the journalist.

At least three times in 2013, authorities transferred Abdurakhmanov from a penal colony in the southern city of Karshi to a prison hospital outside the capital, Tashkent, to receive treatment for a stomach ulcer. In October, after the journalist's family told Uznews about his deteriorating health conditions, authorities placed Abdurakhmanov in solitary confinement for two weeks and forbade his family from seeing him.

Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a complaint in March 2012 with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Abdurakhmanov's imprisonment and calling for his release. The case is pending.

Dilmurod Saiid, freelance
Imprisoned: February 22, 2009

Saiid was serving a 12-and-a-half-year prison term at a high-security prison colony outside Navoi, where he was subjected to torture and denied adequate medical treatment for tuberculosis that he contracted in jail, according to news reports and CPJ sources.

The journalist was arrested in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed in detention in the central city of Samarkand after a woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a local businessman. Although the woman soon withdrew her accusation, saying she had been coerced, authorities refused to release the journalist, Saiid's lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, told CPJ at the time. In March 2009, regional authorities announced that new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion; authorities also said that several local farmers had accused him of using their signatures to create fraudulent court papers.

Saiid was charged with extortion and forgery. Several international human rights and press freedom groups, including CPJ, have found the charges were fabricated in retaliation for his journalism. Prior to his arrest, Saiid had reported on official abuses against farmers for the independent regional news website Voice of Freedomas well as for a number of local publications.

At Saiid's trial, Ferghana News reported, the farmers recanted and told the court that they were pressured by prosecutors to testify against Saiid. Their statement was ignored, one of several irregularities reported during the proceedings. Komilov said that authorities failed to notify him of a number of important hearing dates. When a regional court convicted and sentenced Saiid in a July 2009 closed-door proceeding, the journalist's lawyer and family were not present.

In November 2009, the journalist's wife and 6-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on their way to visit him in prison, regional press reports said. Authorities rejected Saiid's 2011 application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, Uznews reported.

Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a March 2012 complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Saiid's imprisonment and calling for his release. The case is pending.

In a handwritten note that he passed in January 2013, via his visiting brother, to a local rights activist, Saiid revealed some details of his conditions in jail and pleaded for help. Saiid did not explicitly detail violations he had suffered, but hinted that Uzbek and international laws against torture that had been violated during his imprisonment.

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