The following is a non-exhaustive list of imprisoned human rights defenders in Uzbekistan whose cases Human Rights Watch follows closely. Many other activists - defenders, independent journalists, and dissidents - are behind bars on politically motivated charges, including Yusuf Jumaev, a poet and political dissident sentenced to five years in a penal colony after calling for President Islam Karimov's resignation in the run-up to the December 2007 presidential elections. According to his family, Yusuf Jumaev has suffered ill-treatment in prison. Jumaev's son Mashrab Jumaev was also imprisoned on politically motivated charges in apparent retaliation for their father's activism.
Another key political prisoner is Sanjar Umarov, leader of the independent political movement "Sunshine Coalition," who was convicted in March 2006 on charges that appear to be politically motivated. Umarov's mental and physical health is in grave danger. According to his family, he was weak, emaciated and unable to communicate during a visit in November.
While human rights defender Mutabar Tojibaeva's release on parole in June 2008 was a welcome step, authorities have not acquitted her. She continues to serve her criminal sentence and remains at risk of being returned to prison at any time.
1. Azam Formonov and 2. Alisher Karamatov
Formonov and Karamatov were active members of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Gulistan, in Syrdaryo province. Police arrested them on April 29, 2006, and they were charged with attempting to blackmail a local businessman. They were tried at the Yangier City Court without the presence of either their attorney of choice or their non-attorney public defender, Tolib Yakubov, chair of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan who now lives in exile. They were each sentenced to nine years in prison on June 15, 2006. A week before the sentencing, in a private conversation at the prison with Mr. Yakubov, the men described how they were tortured and pressured into signing false confessions. Formonov is currently held at Jaslyk prison, in violation of the terms of his verdict, which specified that he be put into a ‘general' regime prison (Jaslyk prison is ‘severe' regime and so notorious for its harsh conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture following his visit to Uzbekistan recommended that it be closed down).
According to Ozoda Yakubova, Formonov's wife, the head of the prison summoned Formonov to his office and ordered him to sign a statement testifying that he had committed "violations of the regime" and would not be eligible for amnesty. His wife told HRW that he initially refused, but after being tortured, he relented and gave the authorities his signature. Formonov has been repeatedly placed into a punishment cell for "breaking prison rules." One such rule was "helping prisoners write appeals" although Formonov was never in possession of a pen and at most, only spoke to others about how to appeal their prison sentences. On January 8, 2008, Formonov was reportedly stripped of his overclothing, hand-cuffed and put into an unheated punishment cell for 15 days. In January 2008, temperatures in Uzbekistan reached approximately -20 C.
Karamatov was held in prison in Karshi until his health deteriorated in mid-October 2008 and he was transferred to a prison hospital. According to Karamatov's family, who saw him in mid-November, Karamatov is very weak, coughing blood and had lost nearly half his body weight. Prison doctors have diagnosed him with a severe form of tuberculosis Prison officials have also accused Karamatov of violating internal prison rules to render him ineligible for amnesty or early release.
3. Jamshid Karimov
Karimov is an independent journalist from Jizzakh and vocal critic of the government's policies who regularly published articles on the internet. On September 12, 2006 he disappeared after visiting his mother at the Jizzakh Province Hospital. Soon thereafter Karimov was forcibly admitted to the Samarkand Psychiatric Hospital where according to unconfirmed rumors, he was subjected to forcible treatment with antipsychotic drugs. There is no medical basis for Karimov's confinement or treatment and authorities continue to demand that he denounce his journalistic activities. In September 2007, Karimov informed Bakhtiyor Khamraev, a fellow human rights defender, that a commission was going to visit him to consider his release. HRW has not been able to confirm whether there was such a visit, but to date, Karimov remains in psychiatric detention.
Human Rights Watch has received worrying reports indicating that Karimov's family has been intimidated by the authorities and warned not to speak with anyone about Karimov's case. In late spring 2008 Karimov's mother passed away and he was allowed to attend the funeral and to be with his family for five days, but had been instructed not to contact anyone outside the immediate family during this time.
4. Norboi Kholjigitov
Kholjigitov, 60 years of age, is a member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Samarkand province who defended farmers' rights, assisting farmers fighting expropriation of their farms. After working as the director of two state-owned farms he established his own farm, called Free Peasants, in 2004, and supported the poor. Police arrested Kholjigitov on June 4, 2005, on the basis of statements accusing him of threatening to publicly blackmail business owners if they did not buy his silence. At his trial, these statements were retracted. The judge, however, did not account for this change in testimony, and on October 18, 2005, sentenced Kholjigitov to ten years in prison for extortion and slander.
Local human rights groups report that Norboi Kholjigitov's health has dramatically deteriorated over the last year and is in need of medical assessment and treatment. On September 17, 2008, Kholjigitov's lawyer Abdulla Mukhammadjonov saw Kholjigitov in prison No. 64/51, where he had been temporarily transferred from his regular prison No. 64/49. According to Mukhammadjonov, prison authorities continued to accuse him of administrative violations. Such violations can delay his release and render him ineligible for parole. Mukhammadjonov is currently preparing an appeal to be filed with the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.
A relative of Kholjigitov who visited him in mid-September told Human Rights Watch that Kholjigitov's health has deteriorated. Kholjigitov, who suffers from diabetes, has partially lost control of his arm and leg due to complications from diabetes, is unable to walk and is in urgent need of appropriate medical care.
5. Abdusattor Irzaev and 6. Habibulla Okpulatov
Irzaev and Okpulatov are both members of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan working as, respectively, the director and a teacher of a school in Samarkand. They were tried with Kholjigitov in October 2005 and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
7. Nosim Isakov
Isakov was active with the Jizzakh city branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. He was arrested on October 27, 2005, and charged with hooliganism on the basis of a written complaint stating that he exposed himself publicly to his neighbor's teenage daughter. Isakov's supporters found the accusation particularly shocking and offensive because he is a pious Muslim. At his trial, which began December 15, 2005, Isakov did not confess and told the judge that while in pre-trial detention he had been beaten on his head with a bottle filled with water. On December 20, 2005, Isakov was sentenced to eight years in prison. Isakov is being held at Karshi prison.
8. Rasul Khudainasarov
Khudainasarov is the head of the Angren branch of the human rights organization Ezgulik and has focused his work on fighting corruption in the police and security forces. He was arrested on July 21, 2005. On January 12, 2006 he was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison on charges of extortion, swindling, abuse of power, and falsification of documents. Khudainasarov wrote a letter to his lawyer complaining about beatings and ill-treatment he was subjected to the day after his trial ended. According to the letter, Khudainasarov was also put in a punishment cell on January 13, one day after the verdict was issued, in retribution for not confessing during the trial. Khudainasarov is currently being held at Prison 64/21 in Begabat, not far from Tashkent.
Khudainasarov's relatives reported to Human Rights Watch that Khudainasarov has suffered torture and ill-treatment in prison. Khudainasarov has made complaints to the prosecutor's office and went on a temporary hunger strike to protest his ill-treatment. According to his wife, Khudainasarov made a recent suicide attempt and was rescued by fellow inmates.
9. Yuldash Rasulov
Rasulov has been a member of the Kashkadaria branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) since 2002. He has worked to defend the rights of people persecuted for their religious beliefs and affiliations, especially those whose religious practice falls beyond the confines of state-sponsored Islam. Rasulov was arrested at the end of April 2007 and in October 2007 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that included alleged anti-constitutional activity.
10. Salijon Abdurakhmanov
Abdurakhmanov is a Karakalpakstan-based outspoken journalist who has written on sensitive issues such as social and economic justice, human rights, corruption, and the legal status of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan. He worked closely with UzNews, an independent online news agency, and also freelanced for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. He also is a member of human rights group "Committee for the Protection of Personal Rights."
Traffic police arrested Abdurakhmanov on June 7, 2008 when they stopped his car, allegedly to check his identity, and found 114.18 g of marijuana and 5.89 g of opium on the underside of his car. Abdurakhmanov denies knowing about or having anything to do with the drugs and his brother, Bakhrom, a lawyer who is representing him at this trial, believes that the police planted the drugs. The investigators failed to carry out basic investigative steps such as checking the drugs for fingerprints despite repeated requests by Abdurakhmanov and his lawyer. Authorities initially charged Abdurakhmanov with drug possession, but after the investigators determined that Abdurakhmanov does not use drugs, they charged him with selling drugs instead, a more serious charge punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment.
The September trial against Abdurakhmanov, failed to meet fair trial standards. The court in Nukus, sentenced Abdurakhmanov to 10 years in prison and this sentence was upheld on appeal.
11. Akzam Turgunov
Turgunov founded and heads the human rights group Mazlum, and is a member of the opposition political party ERK. He is an advocate for the rights of political and religious prisoners and speaks out against torture. In the months leading up to his arrest in July 2008, Turgunov had been working in Karakalpakstan as a public defender in a number of sensitive cases.
In 1998, Turgunov was sentenced to six years in prison on politically motivated charges of "abuse of office" and "official negligence," related to his work on his neighborhood committee to set up private alternatives to services that are supposed to be provided by the state. He was released under an amnesty in May 2000.
Arrested on July 11, 2008 in Karakalpakstan and accused of extortion on fabricated charges, Turgunov is currently in detention and the trial against him is underway. Serious due process violations during the investigation and proceedings undermine Turgunov's right to a fair and impartial trial. Turgunov has also told his lawyer that he suffered ill-treatment in custody. On July 14, he was taken from a police cell to an investigator's office to write a statement. He told his lawyer that, while he was in the office, someone poured boiling water down his neck and back, causing severe burns and causing Turgunov to lose consciousness. The lawyer, Rustam Tulyaganov, told Human Rights Watch that he observed burns on Turgunov's body and that marks were still evident during the trial hearing on September 16. Tulyaganov submitted a request to the Prosecutor's Office on July 22 for an investigation into the ill-treatment, but received no reply. In his court hearing on September 16, Turgunov removed his shirt to show the burns, which covered a large portion of his back and neck. After viewing the burns, the judge ordered a forensic medical exam, which occurred on September 22.
The court in Manget, Karakalpakstan, sentenced Turgunov to 10 years in prison on October 23, 2008. His appeal is pending.