Uzbekistan: Two journalists deprived of freedom, one at a psychiatric hospital and the other in prison
The Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN is deeply disturbed at the forced psychiatric hospitalisation of journalist Dzhamshid Karimov and the six-year prison sentence served against the journalist Ulugbek Khaidarov. It is concerned that their detention is linked to their reporting on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.
Both men have reported having been under surveillance since they covered the demonstrations in the eastern city of Andijan on 13 May 2005, when several hundred civilian reportedly died. Since then, the government of President Islam Karimov has taken measures leading to restrictions on local and international journalists. In February this year, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry was given wide discretion to issue warnings to foreign correspondents, revoke their accreditation and expel them from the country. All this despite the fact that there is a constitutional ban on censorship and guarantees of press freedom.
Ulugbek Khaidarov(43) suffered beatings and harassment after the Andijan protests. He and Dzhamshid Karimov(39), had reported on the killings of civilians. Both journalists worked in the past for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, as well as independentjournals and web sites. For more about the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, please visit http://www.iwpr.net/
Khaidarov was arrested by the police on the morning of 24 September 2006. After only two weeks’ detention he was summarily sentenced on 5 October after a trial that lasted only two days. Khaidarov was sentenced on charges of extortion, under Article 165 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, and condemned to six years’ imprisonment. Khaidarov had no legal representation at the trial. According to human rights activists the authorities pressured him to refuse a state-appointed lawyer.
According to human rights observers, on the day of Khaidarov’s arrest, he was waiting at a bus stop, where he was approached by Rakhima Abdullayeva, the owner of a marble factory about whom Khaidarov had recently written articles on unpaid wages for its workers. She is said to have shoved money into his pocket. He claims to have tried to throw the money away, but was immediately arrested by the police when Abdullayeva stated that Khaidarov had attempted to blackmail her.
The prosecution against Khaidarov had Ms Abdullayeva as their main witness. However, it has been reported that at the trial she testified that Khaidarov was not guilty of extortion. When Khaidarov’s wife visited him in prison, before the trial, she reported that he appeared drugged, his eyes glazed, and his speech broken leading to concerns that he has been ill-treated in prison.
Dzhamshid Karimov, who is also President Karimov’s nephew, went missing for two weeks in mid September, just after visiting his mother in the hospital. According to his relatives, he was eventually found in a psychiatric hospital in the city of Samarkand, where he remains. It has been reported that the Uzbek authorities confirmed that Karimov is in psychiatric confinement, without specifying the reason, calling it a “private” matter.
In August, Karimov’s family complained about the high levels of police surveillance at their home and demanded that listening devices be removed. This request was not met. The family’s long-distance telephone connections had been cut. At the end of August, the head of the regional administration allegedly visited Karimov and offered him a position on two state newspapers, an offer that was refused.
English PEN is deeply alarmed by the arrest of Ulugbek Khaidarov, his summary trial and the basis for his six-years imprisonment sentence. It also extremely concerned for the hospitalisation of Dzhamshid Karimov in a psychiatric institution. English PEN urges the Uzbek government to stop the harassment and persecution of journalists, and to run a public investigation on the deprivation of freedom of both journalists, to finally bring those responsible to justice.
Please send appeals:
Demanding an exhaustive investigation to establish the true motives behind the criminal trial against Ulugbek Khaidarov, to counter claims that it was politically motivated.
Asking for the re-examination of the irregularities of Ulugbek Khaidarov trial specifically the lack of legal support and the witness testimony on Khaidarov innocence.
Expressing deep concern for the hospitalisation of Dzhamshid Karimov in a psychiatric institution, where his family has not been allowed to visit him.
Demanding that both journalists, while deprived of their freedom, are granted access to their families, independent legal advice and any necessary medical treatment.
Calling on the Uzbek government to do all that it can to respect freedom of expression, as recognised in the Uzbek Constitution, and to guarantee that cases like these will not occur again.
Urging the Uzbek government to comply with its obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory.
Islam A. Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Ul. Uzbekistaniskaia 43
Fax: +998 71 139 5325
Prokuratura Respubliki Uzbekistan
Ul. Gulyamova 66, 700047
Fax: 998 71 133 39 17/133 73 68
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 to the representative of Uzbekistan in your country
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/uzbekistantwojournalistsdepriv/