Uzbekistan: Immediately and unconditionally release independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev
PEN is extremely concerned about the well-being of Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev, who was detained by the National Security Services in Tashkent on September 27, 2017. Abdullaev is detained at the notorious pre-trial detention center of the National Security Services, which has a long, harrowing track record of torture. Abdullaev has not had access to legal counsel, and has only seen his wife once, briefly, on October 1.
PEN believes that Abdullaev is detained solely on the basis of his journalistic work. There are growing fears that he is being tortured.
Send appeals to Uzbekistan’s authorities, urging them to:
Immediately and unconditionally release journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev, and drop the criminal charges against him;
Protect Abdullaev from torture and ill-treatment pending release, including by ensuring access to adequate medical treatment, legal counsel of his choice and his family;
Investigate and provide redress for his incommunicado detention; and,
Respect the right to freedom of expression, which includes ensuring that journalists can work without fear of reprisals and free from harassment.
Please also send copies to diplomatic representatives of Uzbekistan accredited to your country. A list can be found here.
Please send your appeals immediately and check with PEN if sending them after October 24, 2017. Please inform us of any action you take and responses you receive.
Bobomurod Abdullaev is an independent journalist and well-known sports reporter and football commentator. He also writes political analysis under a pseudonym and has contributed to international media organizations, including his participation as an independent expert in discussions on Ozodlik, the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He set up the media rights organization Ozod Ovoz (‘Free Voice’) and worked as a correspondent for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and for Internews International.
Abdullaev disappeared on the afternoon of September 27, 2017 while running an errand. His family was not aware of his whereabouts until September 29, when they discovered that he had been arrested by the National Security Services and is being held at the Security Services’ pre-trial detention center. On that same day, the National Security Services also searched Abdullaev’s home for over five hours, confiscating media equipment and books. On October 1, the Yunusabadskiy District Criminal Court in Tashkent in camera ordered his detention on charges of preparing and disseminating online materials in an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order of the state (Article 159 of the Criminal Code), based on the allegation by the National Security Services that he was working together with Muhammad Salih, an exiled opposition leader. Abdullaev faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted. The Court ordered to remand him in the Security Services’ detention center. Abdullaev has only once, briefly, seen his wife since he was detained, and has no access to legal counsel.
The right to freedom of expression is severely restricted in Uzbekistan. Human rights defenders and independent journalists are frequently subjected to harassment and intimidation, including arrests, beatings and smear campaigns against them.
As documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others, torture is endemic in Uzbekistan. Individuals charged with or convicted of anti-state or terrorism-related crimes have been particularly vulnerable both in pre-trial detention and post-conviction. The courts rely heavily on ‘confessions’ obtained through torture to secure convictions, and a climate of impunity prevails for the alleged perpetrators because of the lack of an effective, independent complaints mechanism.