March 12, 2012

President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Islam A. Karimov
Rezidentsyia prezidenta
Ul. Uzbekistaniskaya 43
Fax: +998 71 139 5325
Minister of Justice
Nigmatilla Tulqinovich Yuldoshev
5, Saylgokh Str.
Fax: +998 71 2335176

Head of the National Centre for Human Rights
Akmal Saidov
Natsionalnyi tsentr po pravam cheloveka
5/3 Mustakillik Maidoni
Tashkent 700029

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 disappointment that a recent amnesty did not include five writers and journalists currently serving long sentences in violation of their right to free expression.

According to our information, on December 7, 2011, the 19th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s constitution, an amnesty has led to the release of prisoners in stages up until early March. This amnesty, however, excluded journalist Dilmurod Saidov, writer Mamadali Mahmudov, journalist Muhammad Bekjanov, journalist Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, and poet and editor Khayrullo Khamidov. Several thousand prisoners are released each year under amnesties, usually those who are convicted of less serious offenses, teenagers, women, and prisoners aged over 60. This would have meant an early release for Mahmudov (62) and Abdurakhmanov (61), but both still remain in prison.

Dilmurod Saidov, who has been under pressure from the government since the 2005 publication of an article in Advokat-Press criticizing human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, was sentenced on July 30, 2009, to 12 years in prison. Mamadali Mahmudov is a writer and opposition activist who has been in prison since February 19, 1999, and whose 14-year sentence expires on August 3, 2013. Former journalist Muhammad Bekjanov has been in prison since March 1999, and is due for release in January 2017. Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, journalist for the German-based Uzbek news agency, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 7, 2008, and is due for release on June 6, 2018. Poet and Chempion editor Khayrullo Khamidov has been in prison since January 21, 2010, and his six-year sentence expires January 20, 2016.

PEN American Center is disappointed that the recent amnesty in Uzbekistan excluded Dilmurod Saidov, Mamadali Mahmudov, Muhammad Bekjanov, Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, and Khayrullo Khamidov, all of whom are serving lengthy prison terms for their journalistic activity and peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release.

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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