PEN International protests the indictment of journalist Urinboy Usmonov on charges believed to be linked to his legitimate activities as a journalist. PEN also condemns the continued refusal to allow Mr. Usmonov, who has worked for ten years as a journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Central Asian Service, access to his lawyer. There are continued concerns for his health and well-being.

Background Information

According to his lawyer, Faizinso Vokhidova, Usmonov was indicted on June 20, 2011, charged with “making public calls to forcibly change the constitutional system of Tajikistan,” for which he faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Mr. Usmonov was arrested on June 13, 2011, and was initially accused of membership of the banned Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and of distributing leaflets and information about the group on social networking web sites. These charges have been vehemently denied by the BBC which maintains that he has been arrested solely for his legitimate journalistic activities, saying “Usmonov as a BBC journalist is expected to cover all sides of any story and in the course of his work it is only natural that he would meet and interview people representing all shades of opinion.”

Vokhidova, who had been present for the indictment, reported that it was the first time she had been allowed to see her client since his arrest. She also alleged that during her meeting with Usmonov a security service officer had been present and that she was not allowed to discuss the details of the case.

On June 22, 2011, a vigil was held by members of the English PEN Center and BBC journalists outside Bush House in Central London, headquarters of the BBC World Service. The BBC continues to call for Mr. Usmonov’s immediate release.

Usmonov was reported missing when he failed to return to his family home in the Northern Tajik town of Khujand on June 13, 2011. He appeared at his family home the following day, June 14, accompanied by members of the Tajik security services. They told his family that Usmonov had been arrested, and conducted a search of the house. It was reported that he had injuries which suggested that he had been beaten and that he had difficulty walking during this search. Usmonov’s son Oybek said that although the police conducted a thorough search of the house they did not take anything away. The family remains concerned about Usmonov’s health as he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

More information:

BBC World Service Statement: Urunboy Usmonov

Write A Letter

  • Expressing concerns that that the charges against Urinboy Usmonov are unfounded;
  • Demanding that he be allowed full access to his lawyer, in a confidential and private setting;
  • Calling for a fair and impartial investigation to be conducted in relation to any other charges made against Mr. Usmonov.

Send Your Letter To

Mr. Emomali Rahmon
President of Tajikistan

Tajikistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Rudaki Ave 42, Dushanbe,
Republic of Tajikistan 734001
Fax: 992 372 210 259

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