Khudoberdi Nurmatov and his lawyer, Daniil Khaimovich, Moscow, February 2, 2018

© 2018 Novaya Gazeta

Today marked one of those all too rare instances when good news comes out of a Russian courtroom -  an expulsion order against Journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov was overturned, opening the way for him to leave the immigration detention facility where he has been held since August 2017.

The decision comes on the heels of Nurmatov’s successful appeal last week of a court decision to expel him to his native Uzbekistan, where he faces a serious risk of ill-treatment.

Nurmatov, who reported for one of Russia’s leading independent newspapers, Novaya Gazeta, on hate crimes, migrants’ rights, and discrimination against LGBT people, was ordered to be expelled for violating Russia’s immigration rules. The first expulsion order was for illegally residing in Russia, the second, for illegally working. Novaya Gazeta was slapped with a hefty 400,000-ruble ($7,100 US) fine for violating labor laws on hiring foreigners.

The European Court of Human Rights issued a temporary injunction on August 4, 2017, barring Nurmatov’s transfer to Uzbekistan, which he had fled in 2008. He told Novaya Gazeta he fled because he was detained and beaten by the Uzbek security services. He sought asylum in Russia, but the authorities twice rejected his request for temporary protection.

Nurmatov, whose pen name is Ali Feruz, stated in court that he wants to leave Russia for Germany, which has already issued him a visa.  

In January, the Russian Supreme Court sent the case dealing with the first expulsion order back to the Moscow City Court for retrial. Last week, the latter overturned the initial decision, ruling that Nurmatov can leave Russia for a third country. Now, with the second expulsion order out of the way, Nurmatov can apply for permission to leave the detention center. Previous requests were rejected, but Nurmatov’s lawyer hopes the court rulings will now lead to a positive result.

Nurmatov described in his diary the dire conditions of confinement in the facility outside Moscow, where foreigners destined for expulsion languish. Inmates have repeatedly complained of harsh and inhumane treatment by guards, including beatings and the use of stun guns.

Though the outcome of today’s hearing is excellent news, it’s too early to rejoice. Only once Nurmatov has boarded an airplane to Germany will there be reason to celebrate.