PEN International is disturbed by reports from Amnesty International that Uzbek writer Mamadali Makhmudov will not be released from prison upon completion of his 14-year jail term. On March 5, 2013, Makhmudov was told that a new criminal case had been filed against him for allegedly violating prison rules. Makhmudov is one of the longest serving writers in prison, having been held since 1999. He was one of the 50 Emblematic PEN Cases, each representing a year of the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC)’s existence, featured in the 2010 celebrations of PEN International WiPC’s 50th anniversary. PEN calls on the authorities of Uzbekistan to immediately release Makhmudov and to ensure that he is provided with all necessary medical attention.

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Background Information

The following is taken from an Urgent Action appeal issued by Amnesty International on March 26, 2013:

Uzbeki writer Mamadali Makhmudov was told on March 5 that a new criminal case has been initiated against him for allegedly violating prison rules. He was due to be released from detention after serving 14 years in prison. His family has been denied visitation rights and is fearful that he may not survive a further term in prison.

Mamadali Makhmudov, 72, an award-winning dissident writer from Uzbekistan, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in August 1999 on charges of attempting to violently overthrow the constitutional order, establishing prohibited public and religious organizations, and setting up a criminal group. He has always denied the charges and said that he was tortured in pre-trial detention in order to force him to “confess” to the crimes. On March 5, 2013, Mamadali Makhmudov was informed that the prosecutor had signed an indictment against him for allegedly violating prison rules a total of 31 times. Makhmudov maintains that he had not been previously informed by the prison authorities of any violation that he had supposedly committed. He is now facing a new prison term of up to five years based on Article 221 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (“disobedience to legitimate orders of administration of institution of execution of penalty”). Relatives of Mamadali Makhmudov have been trying to visit him in prison since February 2013. The last visit took place on November 14, 2012, when his daughter visited him in a prison hospital in Tashkent. Makhmudov is suffering from tuberculosis, high blood pressure, and general weakness.

Amnesty International’s research shows that certain categories of prisoners, such as human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience, government critics, and individuals convicted of membership of Islamist parties and groups or Islamic movements banned in Uzbekistan, are often subject to severe punishment regimes in prisons where they serve their sentences. Oftentimes they will have their sentences extended for long periods, even for alleged minor infractions of the prison rules. Amnesty International is concerned that the initiation of this new criminal case against Mamadali Makhmudov is illustrative of a long-standing pattern of harassment of civil society activists and human rights defenders by the Uzbekistani authorities.

Additional Information:

On February 11, 2013, Mamadali Makhmudov’s son went to visit him in a prison colony in Chirchik, eastern Uzbekistan, where Makhmudov had been serving his prison term since June 2001 However, he was not allowed to see his father and the prison authorities refused to accept the parcels of medicine and food that he had brought along. Later that day Mamadali Makhmudov’s family found out that he had been transferred to a prison in Tashkent, where people awaiting trial or those awaiting a transfer to a prison post-conviction are held. On February 12, 2013, his daughter tried to visit him in this prison in Tashkent, but the meeting did not take place. She was able only to give medicine to the prison personnel to pass on to her father.

Mamadali Makhmudov was sentenced for his alleged participation in a series of explosions in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital, in February 1999 which the authorities described as an assassination attempt on President Islam Karimov. President Karimov swiftly blamed the explosions in Tashkent on “Islamist extremists” and others who wished to undermine the government. Makhmudov was held incommunicado in pre-trial detention for almost three months in 1999. In a written statement he described how he had been systematically tortured during that time by, among other methods, being constantly beaten; having his hands and feet burned; having needles stuck under his nails; being suspended by his hands tied behind his back; having a gas mask put over his face with the air supply turned off; and being threatened with rape and death. In addition, he was told that his wife and children had been taken into detention and that they would be raped in front of him if he did not confess on film. From April until July 2000, Mamadali Makhmudov spent time in Jaslyk prison camp in the Northern Karakalpakstan region. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s February 2003 report on Uzbekistan included the recommendation to “…give urgent consideration to closing Jaslyk colony, which by its very location creates conditions of detention amounting to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment for both its inmates and their relatives…”. Makhmudov wrote a letter detailing how he had been subjected to constant beatings and had lost 24 kilograms while at Jaslyk. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have reported dozens of deaths in custody in suspicious circumstances since Jaslyk was opened in 1999.

Amnesty International’s research shows that certain categories of prisoners are often put in punishment cells which have been described by former prisoners as small rooms (often windowless and made of concrete) with no heating, no natural light or ventilation, and no room for a bed. Prisoners are often denied adequate medical care and are forced to work long hours. They are frequently required to do physically demanding manual labor – such as building work or making bricks – with basic tools, inadequate clothing, and little food or water. Former prisoners report that they were frequently beaten by prison guards and other prisoners.

Write A Letter

  • Calling on the Uzbeki authorities to promptly release Mamadali Makhmudov on the grounds of his seriously deteriorated state of health as well as the repeated calls for the investigation into his case to be conducted in a manner consistent with international standards for fair trials, including a prompt and impartial investigation into all allegations of torture, which have gone unheeded for over 13 years;
  • Urging them to ensure that Mamadali Makhmudov is immediately provided with all necessary medical treatment and allowed family visits;
  • Reminding the authorities that under international human rights law they have a duty to protect the physical and psychological well being of those in their custody.

Send Your Letter To

President of Uzbekistan
President Islam Karimov
Ul. Uzbekistanskaya 43
Fax: +998 71 139 55 25
Salutation: Dear President

General Procurator of Uzbekistan
Rashidzhon Kodirov
Prokuratura Respubliki Uzbekistan
ul. Gulyamova. 66,
Tashkent 700047, UZBEKISTAN
Fax: (+99817) 133 39 17/133 73 68
Email: prokurat[email protected]
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General

And copies to:
Minister of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan
Bahodir Ahmedovich Matlubov
Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del
ul. Junus Rajabiy 1
Tashkent 100029, UZBEKISTAN
Fax: + 998 71 233 89 34
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

Also send copies to diplomatic representative for Uzbekistand in your country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after May 28, 2013***