Europe and Central Asia

Uzbek Rights Defender Saidjahon Zainabitdinov in Andijan, Uzbekistan

Last updated February 08, 2006

The Uzbek government has confirmed that a court convicted Saidjahon Zainabitdonov, a human rights defender who had spoken out about the May 13, 2005 massacre in Andijan, on four charges and sentenced him to seven years of imprisonment. On January 20, after unconfirmed reports indicated that Zainabitdinov had been sentenced, Human Rights Watch called on Uzbek authorities to reveal his fate. Human Rights Watch continues to call for Zainabitdinov’s immediate and unconditional release from custody.

According to information provided on February 7 by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in the United States, on January 5, 2006, the Tashkent City Court convicted Zainabitdinov on charges of slander (article 139(3)(g) of the Uzbek criminal code), undermining the constitutional order (article 159 (3)), preparation and distribution of materials that threaten public order (article 244-1 (3)) and membership in a “religious extremist” organization (article 244-1).

The slander charges, which predate the Andijan events, stem from three email bulletins sent in January 2004, May 2004, and April 2005. The other charges stem from the Andijan uprising. According to information provided by the government, the court found that during the Andijan events Zainabitdinov “conspired with terrorists by providing information by telephone about the events.” The government also said that a search had found "slanderous" leaflets that distorted the May 13 events, including one entitled “Human Rights Organizations’ Appeal to the Government,” and “Human Rights Defenders Accuse the Karimov Regime of Crushing All Opposition."

Saidjahon Zainabitdinov was one of the few people in Andijan who was in a position to provide up-to-the minute reporting on the events as they unfolded. Human Rights Watch believes the charges against Zainabitdinov are politically motivated and are aimed at punishing him for telling the world what truly happened in Andijan on May 13.

Uzbek police arrested Zainabitdinov on May 21, 2005, as part of a government crackdown on rights defenders and others with information about government abuses.

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Photographs of Uzbek rights defender Saidjahon Zainabitdinov in Andijan, Uzbekistan April 2005. © 2005 Private

Saidjahon Zainabitdinov