New York, NY, October 22, 2004—PEN American Center and PEN USA West are delighted to announce that Uzbek journalist and human rights activist Ruslan Sharipov has obtained political asylum in the United States and is now with members of his family in California.

Sharipov fled Uzbekistan on his way to a work camp after receiving a two-year community service sentence this past June. He had originally been given a four-year prison sentence on appeal in September 2003.

Sharipov was arrested on May 26, 2003 in Tashkent with two other colleagues on suspicion of having committed homosexual acts and sex with minors. Sharipov denied the second charge.

A former president of the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan (UIJU) and correspondent for the Russian news agency Prima, Sharipov, who is open about his sexual orientation, has been a critic of the Uzbek government for many years and has written articles on alleged corruption in the police force. He has worked with a number of international human rights organizations. In 2002, he was physically attacked three times, once by police and twice by unidentified individuals.

In a statement written on July 16, 2003 from prison, Sharipov stated that the case had been fabricated by the Mirzo Ulugbek district department of internal affairs as punishment for his reporting for the Russian PRIMA news agency critical of the department and for his activities as chair of the unregistered human rights organization Brazhdanskoe Sodeystvye (Civic Resistance). He added that forensic tests on his alleged victims and himself exonerated him of the charges.

Ruslan Sharipov is an honorary member of both PEN American Center and PEN USA West, in addition to being the recipient of the PEN USA 2004 Freedom to Write award. Each year PEN USA presents Freedom to Write Awards to men and women who have produced work in the face of extreme adversity, been punished for exercising their freedom of expression or fought against censorship and defended the right to publish freely. The awards were presented October 20 at PEN USA’s annual Literary Festival in Los Angeles. Mr. Sharipov arrived in the United States two days later.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 106