February 26, 2009

Islam A. Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Rezidentysia prezidenta
Ul. Uzbekistaniskaia 43
Fax: +998 71 139 5325

Akmal Saidov
Head of the National Center for Human Rights
Natsionalny tsentr po pravam cheloveka
5/3 Mustakillik Maidoni
Tashkent, 700029
Fax: +998 71 139 13 56

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the continued incarceration of Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov.
According to our information, writer Mamadali Makhmudov was arrested on February 19, 1999 after series of explosions in Tashkent. Muhammed Bekjanov was among a group of others arrested a month later in connection with the same events. They were charged under Article 158 Uzbek Criminal Code, “Threatening the president,” Article 25-159 UCC, “Threatening the constitutional order,” Article 216, “Organizing banned public associations and religious organizations,” and Article 242.1, “Organizing a criminal group.” Makhmudov was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Bekjanov was given a 15-year sentence, subsequently reduced to 12 years. Both have been suffering from poor health and have endured abuse at the hands of prison authorities, and Bekjanov has reportedly been treated for tuberculosis, a common disease in the Uzbek prison system.

In December 2008, Uzbekistan’s human rights record was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review, during which 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.

PEN American Center protests the tenth year of imprisonment and mistreatment of both Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov, and we therefore renew our call for their immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a state party.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                            
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee              

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs

Cc: H.E. Abdulaziz Kamilov
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the U.S.
Embassy of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC, 20036-1903
Fax: (202) 293-6804

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