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December 18, 2008

Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk
IMPRISONED: March 15, 1999

Ukrainian police arrested Bekjanov, editor of the banned opposition newspaper Erk, and his colleague Ruzimuradov in March 1999 and extradited them to Uzbekistan . On March 15, 1999, a Tashkent court charged and convicted both journalists of publishing and distributing the banned Erk, which criticized President Islam Karimov; participating in a banned political protest; and attempting to overthrow the constitutional regime of Uzbekistan. The court sentenced Bekjanov to 14 years in prison, Ruzimuradov to 15 years.

Police tortured both journalists during their pretrial detention in Tashkent City Prison, which left them with serious injuries, local human rights activists told CPJ at the time. OnNovember 15, 1999, authorities transferred Bekjanov to a "strict regime" penal colony in the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan ; his colleague was transferred to a similar facility in thevillage of Shakhali near the southern city of Karshi.

According to Erk Party Secretary-General Aranazar Arifov, the families of the two journalists fled Uzbekistan for the United States in 1999.

In interviews with the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and The Associated Press in 2003, Bekjanov described torture and beatings that resulted in a broken leg and hearing loss in his right ear. He was receiving medical treatment in the Tashkent prison hospital for tuberculosis he contracted in prison when IWPR and AP staffers met with him, IWPR reported at the time.

In 2007, the independent news Web site Uznews reported that Bekjanov was serving his sentence in the southwestern city of Kasan. The journalist's wife, Nina Bekjanova, was allowed to visit him in October 2006. After the prison visit, Bekjanova said that her husband was still subjected to beatings that, among other things, had led to the loss of most of his teeth, Uznews reported.

Exiled journalists, human rights workers, and other CPJ sources said they no longer knew of Ruzimuradov's whereabouts or his health. In May 2008, CPJ sent a letter to Karimov, urging him to release the imprisoned journalist.

Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance
IMPRISONED: July 24, 2002

Tashkent police charged Mehliboyev, a freelancer who contributed to the state-run weekly Hurriyat, with participating in a rally in support of the banned Islamist opposition party Hizb ut-Tahrir. According to international news reports, soon after the freelancer was arrested, police searched his room at a local hostel and claimed they found banned religious literature that prosecutors later characterized as extremist in nature.

Mehliboyev spent six months in pretrial detention before his February 2003 trial. Prosecutors presented political commentary he had written for an April 2001 edition of Hurriyat as evidence of his alleged participation in a religious extremist group. In the piece, Mehliboyev questioned whether Western-style democracy should be used as a model in Uzbekistan and argued that religion was the true path to achieving social justice in the country. Prosecutors claimed the article contained ideas from Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

A Tashkent-based representative of Human Rights Watch told CPJ that Mehliboyev said several times during his trial that he had been beaten while in custody, but the court appeared to ignore his comments.

On February 18, 2003, the Shaikhantaur District Court in Tashkent convicted Mehliboyev of anti-constitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred, according to local and international news reports. The journalist was sentenced to seven years in prison; the court reduced the sentence on appeal to six and a half years.

In September 2006, the Tashkent regional court gave the journalist another six-year prison term, independent news Web site Uznews reported in February 2008. According to Uznews, prison authorities claimed the journalist had advocated Hizb-ut-Tahrir's ideas to other inmates and that a religious leaflet was found in his cell. Mehliboyev denied the accusations and said that the guards had actually found his private writings, in which he described the conditions of his imprisonment.

In February 2008, the Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik sent a letter to the prosecutor general's office, asking for a review of Mehliboyev's case. According to Ezgulik, Mehliboyev was serving his term in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan, where he had been abused. CPJ advocated for Mehliboyev's release in a May 2008 letter to President Islam Karimov.

Ortikali Namazov, Pop Tongi and Kishlok Khayoti
IMPRISONED: August 11, 2004

After he wrote a series of articles about alleged abuses in local tax inspections and collective-farm management, authorities in the eastern city of Namagan charged Namazov--editor of the state newspaper Pop Tongi and correspondent for the state newspaper Kishlok Khayoti--with embezzlement of funds.

The two-week-long trial began on August 4, 2004. Namazov was taken into custody a week later, before the verdict was reached. On August 16, the Turakurgan District Criminal Court in the Namangan region convicted Namazov and sentenced him to five and a half years in prison. The journalist complained that the judge did not allow him to defend himself.

Local human rights activist Mutabar Tadjibaeva had monitored Namazov's trial. In an interview with CPJ at the time, Tadjibaeva said that local authorities had harassed Namazov's family during the trial, cutting their home phone line and orchestrating the dismissal of the journalist's daughter from her job as a school doctor.

According to CPJ research, Namazov is serving his sentence at a prison in easternNamangan.

Dzhamshid Karimov, freelance
IMPRISONED: September 12, 2006

The nephew of President Islam Karimov, Dzhamshid Karimov disappeared from his hometown of Jizzakh in September 2006. A few days later, his friends discovered the journalist in a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand, where he had been forcibly committed by Uzbek authorities.

Government officials refused to release any information on the court proceedings that led to his involuntary confinement, and independent experts were not allowed to examine Karimov, according to news reports. A 2007 Human Rights Watch report said Karimov's health had deteriorated, and his eyesight had worsened considerably. Karimov was kept in isolation and was not allowed visitors.

Karimov contributed reports to the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and later worked for a number of independent newspapers and online publications, the Almaty-based news Web site Liter among them. Karimov criticized both local and federal authorities in his coverage of Uzbek social and economic problems.

Local authorities had closely monitored Karimov's journalism, and police had followed him prior to his confinement. In August 2006, authorities seized Karimov's passport when he applied for an exit visa to attend a journalism seminar in neighboring Kyrgyzstan . CPJ and other rights groups repeatedly called on President Karimov to release the journalist.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, Uznews
IMPRISONED: October 10, 2008

Authorities in the western city of Nukus arrested Abdurakhmanov on June 7, after traffic police claimed they found 4 ounces (114 grams) of marijuana and less than a quarter ounce (about 5 grams) of opium in his trunk, the independent news Web site Uznews reported. Authorities charged the journalist with drug possession intended for personal use.

From the day of his arrest, Abdurakhmanov protested the charges, saying police had planted the drugs as a means to silence his critical reporting. In one of his last pieces for Uznews, the journalist covered corruption in the traffic police force. In August, investigators acknowledged that the journalist's blood tests found no traces of drugs. They then increased the charge to drug possession with the intent to sell, according to Uznews. A district court in Nukus started hearing the case in September.

During Abdurakhmanov's trial, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov said, authorities failed to establish a proper chain of custody for the seized drugs. No evidence was offered showing that Abdurakhmanov's fingerprints were on the seized bag. Tulyaganov said prosecutors presented a video in court, purporting to show the seizure of the drugs. But Tulyaganov said the video lacked essential context; for example, a police dog said to have barked at the odor of drugs was not seen at all on the video.

On October 10, Judge Kadyrbai Dzhamolov sentenced Abdurakhmanov to 10 years in prison. Abdurakhmanov covered economic, human rights, and social issues for Uznews, and in the past contributed reporting to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

During a pretrial investigation, authorities questioned Abdurakhmanov primarily about his journalistic sources and the news outlets to which he contributed, said the journalist's brother, Bakhrom, a lawyer who helped with the defense. Galima Bukharbayeva, editor of Uznews and a 2005 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee, said police also searched the journalist's house and confiscated his personal computer along with literature on banned Uzbek opposition leader Muhammad Salikh.

More entries: Journalist and journalism in Uzbekistan., Child labor is banned, but what about students’ labor?, Demographics of Uzbekistan, provinces of Uzbekistan, About Uzbekistan, Ten Tips for Email Etiquette , Evidence of Karimov's Crimes - and CIA Participation, Uzbek folk singer receives suspended sentence for song about Andijan crackdown, Why World Peace is on the Horizon, HI!

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