Ukraine: Halt extradition of dissident journalist to Uzbekistan
PEN is concerned about the arrest at Kiev airport and subsequent detention of journalist Narzullo Akhunjonov on September 20, on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice requested against him by Uzbekistan, his native country.
Akhunjonov now risks extradition to Uzbekistan, where he has been persecuted for his critical reporting. In addition, he has been refused access to a doctor during his detention in Ukraine, while he awaits a decision on the extradition request. Akhunjonov has a problem with his vision and risks permanent damage to his eyesight as a consequence of this denial of medical attention.
Send appeals to the Ukrainian authorities:
Urging them to reject requests to extradite Akhunjonov to Uzbekistan;
Requesting Akhunjonov’s immediate and unconditional release from detention; and,
Demanding that Akhunjonov be allowed urgent access to adequate medical treatment while he remains in detention in Ukraine.
Please send your appeals immediately and check with PEN if sending appeals after October 9, 2017. Please inform us of any action you take and responses you receive.
Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko
Office of the Prosecutor General
13/15 Riznytska St.
Fax: +38 044 280 26 03
Narzullo Akhunjonov is a dissident journalist and poet, who is known for his critical reporting on a wide variety of issues, ranging from politics and jihadism to Uzbek television culture.
Akhunjonov started his journalism career in 1995. He has worked for outlets including the Uzbekistan national television and radio station and contributed to BBC Uzbek service, Voice of America and Radio Liberty/Free Europe’s Uzbek service. Furthermore, his poetry has been published in collections titled Leaf of the Heart in 1998, Sky in my Heart in 2007 and Dear Melodies in 2013, all in Uzbek.
The persecution of Akhunjonov by the Uzbek authorities goes back to 1998, when he questioned then-President Islam Karimov about the detention of a fellow journalist on trumped up fraud charges, after which Akhunjonov was banned from presidential press conferences. In 1999, he was briefly detained and subsequently accused of bribery, frivolous charges aimed at dissuading him from critical reporting, which he however did continue.
The current extradition request by the Uzbek authorities relates to allegations of fraud dating from 2009. Akhunjonov maintains the charges against him are false. There is a pattern of politically motivated fraud charges being brought against dissidents in Uzbekistan. PEN considers it highly likely that the charges against Akhunjonov are indeed politically motivated, as he is targeted by the authorities for his criticism of the authorities.
Akhunjonov left Uzbekistan for Turkey in November 2013 with his family, after receiving threats and in light of concerns that he would be imprisoned immediately. After the situation in Turkey became too dangerous for him, having been followed by unknown persons and received threatening anonymous calls, he fled to Ukraine to request political asylum along with his wife and their five children.
With regard to the Interpol Red Notice, in April 2017 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe noted that “Interpol and its Red Notice system have been abused by some member States … in order to repress freedom of expression or to persecute members of the political opposition beyond their borders” and called on all member states of the Council of Europe to “refrain from carrying out arrests … when they have serious concerns that the notice in question could be abusive.”
For further details contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: firstname.lastname@example.org