August 18, 2008

Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del RU
ul. Junus Rajabiy 1
Tashkent 700029
Fax: + 998 71 233 89 34

Deputy Prosecutor General
Prokuratura Respubliki Uzbekistan
ul. Gulyamova 66
Tashkent 700047
Fax: + 998 71 233 39 17/ 133 73 68

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 grave concern regarding the detention of independent journalist and human rights defender Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov.

According to our sources, on June 7, 2008, Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist working for the independent German-based Uzbek agency, was arrested in Nukus, on the Turkmen border, by traffic police, who claimed to have found illegal drugs upon searching his car. On the same day, police searched his home and his workplace, where his laptop, his books, and his notes were reportedly confiscated. Later, Mr. Abdurakhmanov was questioned about a biography of the exiled leader of the banned opposition party Erk that was found among his belongings. He has reportedly denied the use of drugs or being in possession of illegal substances. Medical test results confirmed he is not a drug user, and none of the information found in his belongings has shown evidence of any illegal activity. Despite the lack of evidence, Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov remains in police custody for possessing illegal drugs.

Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov is also chairman of the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Individual, and is well known for his reporting and monitoring of human rights, economic, and social issues in the region. Prior to his arrest he had expressed concerns that he may suffer reprisals for his writings. There are fears that the current charges against him may be prefabricated.

PEN American Center believes Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov to be detained solely for his human rights reporting. which we consider a breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, and an end to the imprisonment and harassment of all journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression in accordance to international standards.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                            
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee               

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write & International Programs
CC: Minister of Foreign Affairs
Vladimir NOROV
Ministerstvo inostrannykh del RU
pl. Mustakillik, 5
Tashkent 700029
Fax: + 998 71 139 15 17

Head of the Nukus City Department of Internal Affairs
Glave GOVD, Gorodskoi Otdel Vnutrennikh Del
ul. Biruni, g. Nukus
AR Karakalpakstan

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United States
H.E. Abdulaziz Kamilov
Embassy of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

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