Gay Uzbek journalist spared deportation
Russia’s Supreme Court has cancelled a deportation order for Ali Feruz, whose real name is Hudoberdi Nurmatov, a gay Uzbek citizen who works for the independent, trail-blazing Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The court partially accepted Feruz’s appeal and ruled that his case must be sent for revision, a move that probably signals that the case is over.
His supporters launched an international campaign called: “We don’t have the right not to save him.” Human rights groups said they feared Feruz could face torture, imprisonment or even death in repressive Uzbekistan.
Moscow’s Basmanny District Court in November said Feruz (his pen name) was working illegally in Russia and that he should be deported to Uzbekistan and pay US$85 in fines. The court suspended its ruling following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Feruz denied the charges, saying that he was not a permanent Novaya Gazeta employee and did not receive a regular wage.
In October, the Moscow court upheld a 2015 decision by immigration officers refusing to grant Feruz asylum, saying he had not proved that he would face danger from the Uzbek authorities.
He has been held in a centre for foreigners whose status is in question until the ECHR ruling is made.
Feruz was born in Siberia in 1986, left Russia when he was 17 to live with his stepfather in Uzbekistan and was given Uzbek citizenship.
But he fled the Central Asian dictatorship in 2008, claiming he had been tortured by the notorious Uzbek security services.
Rights groups and Russian intellectuals have called for Feruz to be granted asylum.
Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) World Report 2018 calls on all Central Asian states to end repressive policies.
The NGO said since assuming the presidency in 2016, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had taken several positive steps to improve human rights, but grave abuses and repressive policies remained in place.
“Leaders in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have the chance to make game-changing decisions on human rights for their people,” said Hugh Williamson of the New-York-based group. “Those in power across Central Asia should abandon repressive policies and take steps to allow free speech, end torture in detention and release critics from jail.”
Mirziyoyev was praised for releasing at least 16 political prisoners, relaxing restrictions on free expression, removing citizens from the state “black list” and increasing the accountability of government institutions.
However, the security services brought fresh charges against several journalists, including Bobomurod Abdullaev, Hayot Nasreddinov and Nurullo Otahonov, HRW said. However, grave abuses such as torture, politically motivated imprisonment and forced labour in the cotton fields persist.
Uzbekistan is beautiful but troubled. Picture credit: Eurasia Times