Journalist Muhammad Bekzhon, better known as ‘Bekjanov’, played a leading role in voicing dissent in
Because of the crackdown on dissidents, Bekjanov fled to the
Bekjanov’s brother, Rashid Bekzhon, was arrested alongside him and another brother, Komil Bekzhon, a farmer with no known political connections, disappeared in May 1999. After his imprisonment, Bekjanov’s wife fled to the
In August 1999, Bekjanov was sentenced to 15 years in prison, convicted ‘of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper containing slanderous criticism of President Islam Karimov; participating in a banned political protest; and attempting to overthrow the regime. In addition, the court found them guilty of illegally leaving the country and damaging their Uzbek passports.’ After his trial, Bekjanov was reportedly transferred to the ‘strict-regime’ Penal Colony 64/46 in Navoi. More recent information shows that in 2005 he was placed in the Prison Colony 64/62 in Kagan.
There have been serious concerns over Bekjanov’s health while in prison. He has lost considerable amounts of weight and suffered from malnutrition. Relatives who visited in early 2001 claim to have been alarmed by his state of health and reported that he required crutches. In 2003, Bekjanov was interviewed for the first since his imprisonment by the Centre for War and Peace Reporting and the Associated Press in the
Bekjanov’s case is representative of the continuing constant attacks faced by independent journalists and writers in
Bekjanov is an Honorary Member of English PEN, Canada PEN and American PEN.
Sources include: International and American PEN, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/muhammadbekzhonbekjanov/