Stop Persecuting Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights Watch originally reported Gaibullo Jalilov's new sentence (under article 159-1, parts a and b) as 13-years in prison, handed down on August 6, 2010. Human Rights Watch recently obtained a copy of the verdict, dated August 4, which states that Jalilov was sentenced (under articles 159-3, parts a and b, and 244-2, part 1) to 11 years 1 month and 5 days, an increase of 2 years, 1 month and 5 days on his January 2010 sentence.
(New York) - The Uzbek government should revoke the 13-year prison sentence handed down to the human rights defender Gaibullo Jalilov on August 6, 2010, and set him free, Human Rights Watch said today.
Jalilov, a Karshi-based member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, had been serving a 9-year sentence, convicted of religious extremism charges in an unfair trial on January 18. In a closed hearing on August 6 in the Kashkadarya Regional Criminal Court, he was sentenced to an additional four years on new criminal charges of anti-constitutional activity (article 159-1, parts a and b, of the Uzbek Criminal Code) extending his sentence to 13 years.
"Jalilov should not be in prison in the first place given the lack of credible evidence against him," said Rachel Denber, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The extension of Jalilov's sentence shows the harshness of the Uzbek government's campaign against human rights activists."
Jalilov's state-appointed lawyer, who was hesitant to provide information about the case, fearing repercussions, said that the new charges were brought based on witness testimony that Jalilov had actively participated in religious gatherings, and that during these gatherings, he had taken part in religious studies and watched DVDs that contained religious extremist content.
Members of Jalilov's family who attended a session of Jalilov's trial on August 4 told Human Rights Watch that Jalilov asserted his innocence on all charges and asked the prosecution to present their witnesses. The witnesses did not appear in court, the family members said, in violation of Jalilov's right to a fair trial.
On August 6, when one of Jalilov's relatives called to ask about whether the next session had been scheduled, Jalilov's lawyer informed him the sentencing hearing had taken place earlier that day.
At no point during the investigation did prison authorities or the investigator officially notify Jalilov's family that Jalilov was under investigation on new criminal charges. Jalilov had called his wife on July 27 to tell her about the investigation and that he had spent the previous two months in an investigation cell in Kasbi District in Kashkadarya.
In the days following Jalilov's call to his wife, his family repeatedly sought permission to visit him, appealing to the prosecutor's office and to the National Security Agency (SNB). Both offices denied their request.
"Jalilov's rights - as a citizen, at trial, and as a detainee - have been persistently violated, and the Uzbek authorities need to release him and allow him to continue his work," Denber said. "Uzbekistan's international partners should express their concern over the lack of respect for the rule of law in Uzbekistan and call on the government to stop persecuting rights defenders."
Jalilov is a pious Muslim and since 2003, a member of the Kashkadarya Branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. His work has focused on the violation of the right to religious freedom, and in particular, on the persecution of independent Muslims in the Kashkadarya region.
In a closed hearing on January 18, the Kashkadarya Regional Criminal Court sentenced Jalilov to nine years in prison on charges of anti-constitutional activity (article 159-3 of the Uzbek Criminal Code), distribution of materials containing threat to public security (article 244-1), and membership in a banned religious organization (article 244-2). During the trial, Jalilov testified that he had been coerced into signing a confession and asserted his innocence on all counts. His sentence was upheld on appeal in March.
On May 20, his wife and parents tried to visit Jalilov at the UYa 64/49 Prison Colony in Shaikhali, where he had been serving his sentence. When they arrived, they were informed by prison authorities that he had been transferred to Tashkent, but were not told why or when.
On June 7, Jalilov's wife sent a written request to the Head of Prison Administration (GUIN) for information about her husband's whereabouts. She received no response. About a month and a half later, she travelled to Tashkent to look for her husband. On July 23, she inquired about her husband's whereabouts in person at the prison administration agency. A representative informed her that Jalilov's name appeared on a list of detainees being held in a pre-trial detention cell in Bukhara, but gave her no specific information about why he had been moved.
Uzbek authorities have for years ruthlessly targeted Muslims whose faith and practices fall outside of strict government control, and routinely bring religious extremism charges against them under articles such as 159 (anti-constitutional activity) and 244-2 (membership in a banned religious organization). Those who meet privately for prayer or Islamic study or who belong to Islamic groups not registered with the government are singled out for no reason other than the peaceful expression of their religious beliefs.
The Uzbek government also has a long and well-documented track record of persecuting human rights defenders and sending them to prison for long periods based on trumped-up charges. Jalilov is one of at least 14 human rights defenders held by the Uzbek authorities on politically motivated charges. The others are: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Azam Formonov, Nosim Isakov, Alisher Karamatov, Jamshid Karimov, Norboi Kholjigitov, Rasul Khudainasarov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, Farkhat Mukhtarov, Habibulla Okpulatov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov, and Akzam Turgunov.