Activists demand Uzbek releases
Uzbekistan is being called to release a journalist and others civilians “detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression”.
Human Rights Watch and 11 other groups called on the Uzbek government to “ensure a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment” of journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev.
Abdullaev was arrested in September on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” and faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.
Prominent economist Hayot Nasriddinov and Akrom Malikov, an academic, were also detained for allegedly trying to overthrow the government.
Abdullaev said he was tortured in custody, according to HRW.
He was kept in a freezing jail cell naked, forced to stand and given nothing to eat for five days until he collapsed from exhaustion. He said that SNB officers threatened to harm his family. Abdullaev said he was repeatedly tied for several hours to a bed in his cell.
In November, President Shavkat Mirziyoev signed a decree prohibiting the judiciary from using evidence obtained through torture and forbidding legal decisions based on evidence not confirmed during a trial. The decree comes into force next month.
“There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured. This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not,” said Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR).
A Tashkent-based human rights defender, Surat Ikramov, reported that following media reports of Abdullaev’s torture, two National Security Service (SNB) officers implicated had been suspended from the case and had been told not to leave the capital pending an investigation. On January 31, the resignation was announced of Rustam Inoyatov, 73, SNB chief for 22 years. Abdullaev was accused of writing “extremist” articles and of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government.
“Abdullaev’s torture allegations demand a thorough and independent investigation and prosecution of anyone found responsible,” said Umida Niyazova of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “Reports that SNB officials who tortured him could face justice are encouraging signs if true, but Abdullaev, Nasriddinov and other detainees should be immediately released as authorities get to the bottom of what has occurred.”
The 12 groups are HRW, IPHR, Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, the Norwegian-Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, Article 19 and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
Beautiful Bukhara in Uzbekistan. Picture credit: Eurasia Times