Uzbek-Russian journalist flees to Germany

Uzbek-Russian journalist flees to Germany

Uzbek-Russian journalist who uses the pen name Ali Feruz, who for months faced the prospect of deportation from Russia to Uzbekistan, has arrived in Frankfurt after a Moscow court ruled in his favour.

His pioneering newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Feruz, whose real name is Hudoberdi Nurmatov, had left Moscow after being held at an immigration detention centre since August.

Openly gay Feruz was born in Russia in 1986 but moved to Uzbekistan and took Uzbek citizenship when he was 17. He fled Uzbekistan in 2008, saying he had been tortured by the security services.

A Moscow district court in October denied Feruz political asylum, saying he had failed to prove he faced danger if he returned to Uzbekistan.

In November, the court ruled that Feruz had been working illegally in Russia for Novaya Gazeta and ordered his deportation.

Novaya Gazeta’s former chief editor Dmitry Muratov told the Interfax news agency: “I don’t consider this a victory because the best outcome would be for competent people who speak many languages to continue working with us. We lost him.”

The court suspended the order after an August ruling by the European Court of Human Rights stating that Feruz’s deportation should be delayed until it examined the case.

This month a court ruling allowed him to leave Russia.

An Amnesty International report said “torture is rife” in Uzbekistan although in November Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev signed a decree prohibiting the courts from using evidence obtained through torture.

The president is pushing through swift reforms that might make the Central Asian state less threatening for returnees.

Mirziyoyev addressed the threat of extremism in June last year in a speech entitled Ensuring social stability, safeguarding purity of our sacred religion. He said Uzbekistan was an ancient cradle of Islamic science and culture, stressing the need for “protection of youth from the influence of various religious extremist groups [which] stands as a major task for all of us”.

The Uzbek economy is forecast to achieve 5.6-per-cent economic growth this year by the World Bank, which is supporting effort to modernise agriculture and develop the private sector.

It is hoped that an improving economy will encourage the return of around 2 million Uzbeks working in Russia, which might bolster ties with Moscow.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the largest institutional investor in Central Asia, has reopened its operation in Tashkent and has signed agreements to support independent businesses, trade finance and agribusinesses.

In 2017, Russia committed to US$12 billion of investments and trade agreements worth US$3.8 billion while last year China also signed deals with Tashkent worth an estimated US$20 billion.

 

Uzbekistan’s security forces are everywhere. Picture credit: Eurasia Times

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