January 30, 2012

Mr. Yuldashev Nigmatilla Tulkinovich

Minister of Justice
5 Saylgokh Str
Republic of Uzbekistan 100047

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 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 shock regarding the news that editor Muhammed Bejkanov has been served with another five-year prison sentence.

According to our information, on January 24, 2012, just two days before his release, editor of the now-defunct opposition newspaper Erk and PEN Honorary Member Muhammed Bekjanov was sentenced to an additional five years in prison in a district court in Kasan. He was charged with breaking unspecified prison rules after a January 18 hearing in which Bekjanov’s cellmates accused him of violating a prison order. The news web site Uznews reports, however, that the inmates appeared nervous in the courtroom, which led Bekjanov’s lawyer to believe that they had been forced to testify against his client. Bekjanov denies the charges and plans to appeal.

Muhammed Bekjanov, whose release was scheduled for 2012, has been in prison since 1999 on charges widely believed to have been fabricated. He was reportedly tortured before his 1999 trial and was jailed in a high-security penal colony reserved for individuals convicted of serious crimes. Bekjanov has continued to suffer torture while imprisoned; in 2003, he reported a broken leg and hearing loss, and in 2006, his wife Nina Bekjanova told Uznews that he had lost almost all his teeth due to repeated beatings. There has been no news of his condition since.

PEN American Center protests the extension of Muhammed Bekjanov’s sentence on politically motivated charges, and seek news of Bekjanov’s condition while imprisoned. We call upon the authorities to abide by their commitment to protect freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory, and renew our call for the release of Muhammed Bekjanov and all journalists currently detained in Uzbekistan, and the end of all harassment against them.

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. Ilhom Nematov
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United States
Embassy of Uzbekistan to the U.S.
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1903
Fax: (202) 293-6804

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