English PEN is profoundly shocked by the seven-year sentence served against Umida Niyazova, a journalist and human rights defender. International PEN considers the conviction to be in blatant violation of Niyazova’s right to freedom of expression and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
On 1 May, Sergely District Court in Tashkent, following a closed trial barred to the press and public, sentenced Niyazova, age 32, to seven years in prison. She was convicted on charges of smuggling banned materials into Uzbekistan, using foreign aid to distribute material that threatens Uzbek national security, and illegally crossing the border with Kyrgystan. These accusations are clearly linked to Niyazova’s legitimate work as a human rights activist and journalist. Those related to smuggling and distribution refer to her reports on human rights abuses, notably in on the May 2005 Andijon massacre. She is a reporter on politics and human rights for the Central Asia website, Oasis, as well as for the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. She has also worked for Human Rights Watch, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Freedom House and Internews.
At the trial, Niyazova’s lawyer,Tatiana Davydova, stated that the only offence that her client had committed was to enter Uzbekistan without proper papers, a crime that is anyway usually punished under administrative, not criminal, legislation. Her passport had been seized along with her laptop computer when she was briefly detained on 21 December 2006. After being informed by her previous lawyer that no charges were to be brought against her, she returned to Uzbekistan from Kyrgyzstan to collect her laptop only to be arrested at the border.
The trial itself was also severely flawed. Davydova, was provided with only 30 minutes notice of the final hearing, thus not allowing for her to prepare for the hearing, and giving insufficient time for diplomatic and other observers to get to the court room. Human Rights Watch reports that the hearing was originally scheduled to take place on 19 April but when observers arrived in the court, they were informed that it had been postponed to an indefinite date due to the ‘complexity’ of the issues. She was convicted under Criminal Code Article 223, part 1 (illegal border crossing); Article 246 part 1 (smuggling) and Article 244/1 part 3 (distributing material causing disorder with the use of financial support from abroad).
For full details of the trial go to click here.
From her arrest on 22 January 2007, there have been acute concerns for Niyazova’s well-being. An alert issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists on 12 April 2007, reports fears that Niyazova’s health is deteriorating. Her sister visited Niyazova in Feburary, and noted that she appeared distressed and had lost weight. She was said to have been subjected to sleep deprivation, beiong allowed only 3-4 hours sleep a day, and that loud music is constantly blaring in her cell. Click here CPJ report referring to health concerns. A single mother, Niyazova has expressed her anxieties for the welfare of her two-year-old son.
Niyazova is currently held in Tashkent Prison. She has the right to appeal within 10 days (of 1 May). If the sentence is upheld, then she could be transferred to a labour colony.
Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:
- Expressing profound shock at the seven year sentence served against Umida Niyazova solely for her work as a journalist and human rights defender;
- Pointing out that the sentence is in direct violation of her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Uzbekistan is a State Party;
- Therefore calling for Umida Niyazova’s immediate and unconditional release.
President Islam KARIMOV,
ul. Uzbekistanskaia 43,
Fax: 998 71 139 53 25
Salutation: Dear President Karimov
Minister of Internal Affairs Bakhodir MATLIUBOV,
Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del RU,
ul. Novruz 1,
Fax: 998 71 133 89 34
Salutation: Dear Minister Matliubov
Human Rights Ombudsman Ms Saroyya RASHIDOVA,
1 Xalglar Do’stligi Ko’chasi,
Fax 998 71 139 8555 or 998 71 139 8071
It would also be effective to also send the above appeals via the Uzbek embassy in London:
His Excellency Mr Tukhtapulat Tursunovich Riskiev
41 Holland Park
London W11 3RP
Fax 020 7229 7029
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/uzbekistanjournalistsentencedto7years/