Poet Yusuf Juma Ill-Treated in Prison
International PEN is concerned by reports that the Uzbek poet Yusuf Juma, who was arrested in December 2007 and sentenced to five years in prison, is suffering ill-treatment in prison. PEN is seeking assurances of Yusuf Juma’s well-being, clarification of the reasons for Yusuf Juma’s detention, and assurances that he is not being held in denial of his right to freedom of expression.
In early November, Feruza Juma, Yusuf Juma’s daughter, visited her father in the maximum-security Jaslyk prison. She reports that Yusuf Juma’s health is deteriorating and that he is allegedly suffering beatings and ill-treatment by the prison wardens. She claims that she saw bruises on her father’s body. She reports that her request to the prison head to allow Juma to meet with his lawyer was refused.
Yusuf Juma’s sentence reportedly states that he should serve his five-year term at Kungrad prison, in Karakalpakstan; however, he was transferred to Jaslyk prison earlier this year for unknown reasons. Jaslyk Prison, based in a remote area of northwest Uzbekistan, is notorious for its harsh conditions. It is situated in a former Soviet military camp on land said to be heavily contaminated with chemical and biological waste. With no roads, the only access is via infrequent rail links, making visits by family and lawyers extremely arduous, and thus infrequent.
In early December 2007, Yusuf Juma (also known as Yusuf Dzhumaev/Jumaev), aged 50, held a series of demonstrations in the southwestern city of Bukhara with other members of his family, during which they displayed posters calling for the resignation of Uzbek President Karimov, who was standing for re-election in presidential elections. The posters were also posted on the Jumas' car as it drove around the city.
On December 10, Yusuf Juma and his family were staging a demonstration at a bus stop when they were ordered to disperse by police. According to reports, Juma and others got into their car and drove off, injuring two policemen as they attempted to halt the vehicle. That evening the Juma home was reportedly raided by police who shot into the house at random. Juma and his family fled into hiding, and some family members are now reported to be in exile.
Yusuf Juma was arrested around December 22, along with his son, Bobur Juma. He was subsequently sentenced on April 15, 2008 to five years in prison under Uzbek Criminal Codes Article 104 (Intentional Infliction of Serious Bodily Injury) and Article 219 (Resistance to Authority or Person Fulfilling Civil Duty). His son was given a suspended sentence and freed. According to reports, Juma does not deny that the two police could have been injured as he drove away. However, early police reports stating that the injuries had been minor were later changed to more serious injuries, leading to questions about whether more has been made of the incident so as to be sure that the dissident poet would be convicted and imprisoned.
Yusuf Juma had earlier come to the attention of International PEN when, in October 2000, he was arrested on criminal charges that Uzbek human rights groups considered to have been trumped up as a means of penalizing him for his outspoken criticism, some of which was carried on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The trial ended in September 2001—its outcome unclear. He was again arrested in October 2001 and held for two months on charges of “anti constitutional activity,” reportedly related to two articles in which he accused Bukhara officials of corruption. In response to appeals from International PEN in 2001, the Uzbek National Security Service (NSS) wrote that Juma had been calling for a “holy jihad” and referred to previous charges levied in 1994 and 2000 under which Juma had been accused of physical attacks against his neighbors. Supporters dispute this, claiming that local people had been coerced by police to make false allegations. Until the arrest in December 2007, PEN had not received reports of further attacks against him, although it is apparent that he continued his dissident activities.
Write A Letter
- Expressing concern over reports that Yusuf Juma has suffered ill-treatment in prison and is being denied medical attention;
- Referring to further concerns that the evidence against Yusuf Juma may have been manipulated as a means of ensuring his conviction and imprisonment in retaliation for his long standing criticism of the government;
- Urging that should Yusuf Juma be held solely in denial of his rights to freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory, he be freed immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
Islam A. Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Ul. Uzbekistaniskaia 43
Fax: +998 71 139 5325
Prokuratura Respubliki Uzbekistan
Ul. Gulyamova 66, 700047
Fax: 998 71 133 39 17/133 73 68
Head of the National Centre for Human Rights
Natsionalny tsentr po pravam cheloveka
5/3 Mustakillik Maidoni
Fax: +998 71 139 13 56
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Uzbekistan in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after December 21, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org