On 19 February 2009, Uzbek writer and activist Mamadali Makhmudov will have been imprisoned for ten years, making him one of the longest-serving detained writers on International PEN’s records. Another writer arrested in the same case, Muhammad Bekjanov, also remains detained. They have suffered dire prison conditions and ill health throughout. PEN reiterates its call for their release.

Background Information

Mamadali Makhmudov, an award-winning Uzbek writer and opposition activist, was arrested on February 19, 1999 after a series of explosions in Tashkent. Several others were arrested in connection with these events; one of whom, journalist Muhammad Bekjanov, also remains in prison. 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. Bekjanov was given a 15-year sentence, subsequently reduced to 12 years.  Their arrests were linked to the leader of the banned Erk opposition party leader, Muhammed Salih, himself a writer and Bekjanov's brother, who now lives in exile in Norway. Both Makhmudov and Bekjanov are suffering poor health in detention. Bekjanov has been treated for tuberculosis, which is rife in Uzbek prisons.

The convictions led to international condemnation. The trial was deeply flawed with credible reports that the defendants suffered severe torture. Makhmudov has issued a number of statements detailing mistreatment in prison. Prison conditions in Uzbekistan are appalling: Makhmudov spent some time in the notorious Yaslik prison, which, according to Amnesty International's 2001 annual report, is a former Soviet military barracks situated on contaminated ground and whose prisoners suffered severe abuse. In December 2008, Uzbekistan’s human rights record was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review, a process in which UN member states scrutinize other UN member states’ human rights records. Many countries recommended that Uzbekistan address, among other issues, torture, poor prison conditions and attacks on freedom of expression. The recommendations were accepted by the Uzbek representatives present, but now it remains to be seen whether this will lead to real improvements.

Throughout the 1990s, Makhmudov was a critic of the policies of the Uzbek presidency. Between 1994 and 1996 he was imprisoned for alleged embezzlement and abuse of office, charges which PEN and Amnesty International considered to have been fabricated. The organizations believed instead that his arrest was due to his association with Muhammad Salih.

In the early 1980s Mamadali Makhmudov published a novel, The Eternal Mountains, which is a fictionalized account of the events that occurred during the Russian occupation of central Asia in the late 1800s. It was met with acclaim in Uzbekistan, winning the prestigious Cholpan award in 1992. In 2008 the publishing house L’AUBRE published Makhmudov’s book in French, translated by Philipe Frison, under the title La Montagne Eternelle.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the tenth year of imprisonment of writer and opposition activist Mamadali Makhmudov and journalist Muhammad Bekjanov, and calling 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.
  • Expressing serious concern about reports that Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov are in poor health;
  • Seeking assurances of Mamadali Makhmudov and Muhammad Bekjanov’s well-being and demanding that they are is given full access to all necessary medical treatment.

Send Your Letter To

Islam A. Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Rezidentysia prezidenta
700163 Uzbekistan
Tashkent, U1. Uzbekistaniskaia 43
Fax: +998 71 139 5325
Email: presidents_office@press-service.uz

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

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Uzbekistan in your country if possible.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after March 19, 2009: ftw[at]pen.org