The trial of journalist Urinboy Usmonov of the British Broadcasting Service’s Central Asian Service has begun. Usmonov has been indicted on fabricated charges of “complicity in the activities of banned extremist Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahir,” for which he faces up to five years in prison if convicted. PEN International calls for the trumped up charges against Mr. Usmonov to be dropped and for the Tajik authorities to ensure that no individual is persecuted for carrying out legitimate journalistic activities.

Background Information

Usmonov was originally arrested on June 13, 2011, and accused of membership of the banned extremist Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahir. He was later reported to have been indicted on charges of “making public calls for mass disorder,” which carried a maximum 15-year sentence. This was finally changed to “complicity in the activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir,” for which he faces up to five years in prison. The BBC has vehemently denied the charges against Usmonov, stating that “Whilst Mr. Usmonov has reported on the judicial trials and activities of the Hizbi Tahir party in Tajikistan at the request of the BBC, the BBC has no reason to believe these allegations.”

While in detention, Usmonov’s family had reported that they were concerned about his health as he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. Usmonov was visited in prison on June 27, 2011, by Hamid Ismalov (also from the BBC Central Asian Service), who reported that he was “horrified” to find his colleague in an extremely frail physical and psychological state. Usmonov was released on bail on July 14, 2011, after signing a written pledge to remain in Tajikistan to face the charges.

Usmonov’s trial began on August 15, 2011, in the Northern city of Khujand. His lawyer, Faiziniso Vokhidova, has stated that the prosecutors have “claimed as evidence” articles about the banned extremist group which Usmonov had downloaded from the Internet, as well as the fact that he has met with several of their members. However, the BBC has previously stated that “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.” His lawyer also claimed that he has furthermore been accused of using the BBC “as a platform for Hizb-ut-Tahrir propaganda.” Centers including English PEN have campaigned for Usmonov’s release, joining his colleagues outside BBC’s World Service Bush House.

More information:

Photos: Vigil for Urinboy Usmonov

Write A Letter

  • Calling for the trumped up charges against Mr. Usmonov to be dropped immediately;
  • Demanding that the Tajik authorities ensure that no one is persecuted for carrying out their legitimate work as a journalist.

Send Your Letter To

Mr. Emomali Rahmon
President of Tajikistan
Email: mail@president.tj

Tajikistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Rudaki Ave 42, Dushanbe,
Republic of Tajikistan 734001
Fax: 992 372 210 259
Email: admin@mfa.tj

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

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after September 26, 2011: ftw [at] pen.org