On 19 February 2009, Uzbek writer and activist, Mamadali Makhmudov, will have been imprisoned for ten years, making him one of the longest serving detained writers on PEN’s records. Former journalist Muhammad Bekjanov who was arrested as part of the same case also remains detained. Both men have suffered dire prison conditions and ill health throughout.
Mamadali Makhmudov, an award winning Uzbek writer and opposition activist, was arrested on 19 February 1999 after a series of explosions in Tashkent. Several others were arrested in connection with these events, one of whom, journalist Muhammad Bekjanov also remains in prison. They were charged under Article 158 Uzbek Criminal Code – Threatening the president; 2) Article 25-159 UCC – Threatening the constitutional order; 3) 216 organising banned public associations and religious organisations; and 4) 242.1 organising a criminal group. Makhmudov was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Bekzhon was given a 15 year sentence, subsequently reduced to 12 years. Their arrests were linked to the leader of the banned Erk opposition party leader, Muhammed Salih, himself a writer, who now lives in exile in Norway. (Bekjanov is Salih’s brother.) Both Makhmudov and Bekjanov are suffering poor health in detention. Bekjanov has been treated for tuberculosis, which is rife in Uzbek prisons.
The convictions led to international condemnation. The trial was deeply flawed with credible reports that the defendants suffered severe torture. Makhmudov has issued a number of statements detailing maltreatment in prison. Prison conditions in Uzbekistan are appalling. Makhmudov has reportedly spent some time in the notorious Yaslik prison which, according to Amnesty International’s 2001 annual report, is a former Soviet military barracks situated on contaminated ground where prisoners are known to suffer severe abuse.
In December 2008, Uzbekistan’s human rights record was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review, a process where UN member states scrutinise other UN member states’ human rights records. Many countries recommended that Uzbekistan address, among other issues, torture, poor prison conditions and attacks on freedom of expression. These recommendations were accepted by the Uzbek representatives present, and now it remains to be seen whether this will lead to real improvements.
Throughout the 1990s, Makhmudov was a critic of the policies of the Uzbek presidency. Between 1994 and 1996 he was imprisoned for alleged embezzlement and abuse of office, charges which at the time were considered by PEN and Amnesty International to have been fabricated; his arrest was believed to be because of his association with Muhammad Salih.
In the early 1980s Mamadali Makhmudov published a novel The Eternal Mountains, which is a historical fiction of the events that happened during the Russian occupation of central Asia in the late 1800s. It was met with acclaim in Uzbekistan, winning the prestigious Cholpan award in 1992. In 2008 the publishing house L’AUBRE, published Makhmudov’s book in French, translated by Philipe Frison, under the title La Montagne eternelle.
Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bejkanov are Honorary Members of the English, American, Netherlands, USA and Canadian PEN Centres.
For more information on Uzbekistan, see:
BBC country profile on Uzbekistan:
Keep abreast of the case and other Uzbekistan news through the Uznews site: http://www.uznews.net/index.php?lng=en
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the tenth year of imprisonment of writer and opposition activist Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR, to which Uzbekistan is a state party.
• Expressing serious concern about reports that Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov are in poor health;
• Seeking guarantees of Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov’s well-being and demanding that they are is given full access to all necessary medical treatment.
Appeals may be sent to:
Islam A. Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Tashkent, U1. Uzbekistaniskaia 43
Fax: 998 71 139 5325
Head of the National Centre for Human Rights
Natsionalny tsentr po pravam cheloveka
5/3 Mustakillik Maidoni
Fax: 998 71 139 13 56
Please also send copies of your appeal letters to the representative of Uzbekistan in the UK:
His Excellency Mr Tukhtapulat Tursunovich Riskiev
41 Holland Park
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/uzbekistan2009markstenthyearinprison/