13.2.18

Uzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist

12 Human Rights Groups Call for Journalist’s, Others’ Immediate Release
Bobomurod Abdullaev
(Bishkek, February 12, 2018) – Uzbek authorities should ensure a thorough, impartial, and independent investigation into the alleged torture and other ill-treatment of a detained independent journalist, 12 human rights groups said today. Uzbek authorities should immediately release Bobomurod Abdullaev and other people detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, the groups said.

Abdullaev, a freelance reporter, worked for Fergana news agency and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), among other publications.

Bobomurod Abdullaev was detained on September 27, 2017 in Tashkent by officers in Uzbekistan’s National Security Service (known as the “SNB”) on charges of “conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime” (Article 159(4) of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code), which carries up to 20 years in prison. His relatives told representatives of several human rights groups on February 3, 2018 that he had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated since his detention. Uzbek authorities should immediately release Abdullaev and other people detained on similar grounds, the groups said.

“At a time when the Uzbek government appears to be taking steps to reform the country’s feared security services, reports of a journalist’s torture in their custody should prompt an immediate investigation and decisive, public condemnation,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The 12 human rights groups are Amnesty International, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), Civil Rights Defenders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, Freedom Now, ARTICLE 19, and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.

On February 8, a Tashkent-based human rights defender, Surat Ikramov, reported that following media reports of Abdullaev’s torture, two SNB officials implicated in abuses had been suspended from the case and had been told not to leave the city pending an investigation. On January 31, the Uzbek government announced the resignation and replacement of Rustam Inoyatov, the 73-year old chief of the SNB for 22 years, during which there were constant reports of torture and other ill-treatment carried out by SNB officials.

Authorities accused Abdullaev of writing “extremist” articles and of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government, along with Hayot Nasriddinov, a well-known economist and blogger, Akrom Malikov, an academic, and others.

Abdullaev’s relatives and other Uzbek human rights defenders told Human Rights Watch that since his arrest, security services have repeatedly tortured him and denied him his right to a legal counsel of his choosing and restricted visits with family members.

Abdullaev’s wife, Kattiqiz Balkhibaeva, told Human Rights Watch about her first meeting with her husband in October:
When I met my husband for the first time [at the SNB pre-trial detention center Gvardeiskaya in Tashkent], I brought him some warm clothes. The detective told me that I better not give any interviews to reporters or speak with anyone about the case. When I saw my husband, we were surrounded by five SNB officers and not able to speak freely. He looked at me, paused, and then told me not to speak to the press or hire a lawyer. Then an SNB officer told me that if I spoke with anyone about this, ‘it would be very bad for Bobomurod.’
Hayot Nasriddinov

In January, Abdullaev met with his mother and wife again and told them that he had been tortured since his arrest in September. He said that on the day he was arrested four SNB officers approached him near his home in Tashkent without explaining they intended to arrest him or showing any identification. As they approached he asked, “What happened?” and began to resist. The men then put a bag over his head, beat him all over his body, and stuffed him into a car. Abdullaev said that nearby residents witnessed the abduction.

Abdullaev said that in the days after his arrest he was kept in a freezing jail cell naked and forced to remain standing. He said he was given nothing to eat for five days and was only given food after he collapsed from exhaustion. He said that SNB officers denied him food on several occasions and threatened to destroy him and his family. He said he was repeatedly tied for several hours at a time to a bed in his cell for several hours at a time.

His mother, Gavkharjon Madaminova, has written numerous appeals to government bodies about her son’s detention and posted videos online appealing to the president for help, but received no meaningful responses.

SNB officials intimidated Abdullaev’s first attorney and would not let her meet with him, relatives said. Abdullaev hired Sergey Mayorov, a human rights lawyer, in November and was allowed to meet him on December 14 in the presence of the SNB detective overseeing the case. Eight days later, the SNB detective summoned Mayorov. SNB guards brought in Abdullaev, who said in their presence that he had decided to fire Mayorov and would be represented by a state-appointed lawyer. The SNB official showed Mayorov a statement firing him that was allegedly signed by Abdullaev ten days earlier. Before being forced to leave, Mayorov asked whether Abdullaev’s pre-trial detention had been extended, for how long, and when the investigation would be completed. The SNB officer refused to answer.

At a subsequent meeting with his wife later in December, Abdullaev asked her to pass on the message to Mayorov that he still wanted him to act as his lawyer at his trial. Authorities have not yet announced a trial date.

Abdullaev’s torture allegations demand a thorough and independent investigation and prosecution of anyone found responsible,” said Umida Niyazova of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “Reports that SNB officials who tortured him could face justice are encouraging signs if true, but Abdullaev, Nasriddinov and other detainees should be immediately released as authorities get to the bottom of what has occurred.

In a related case, on or around October 20, authorities arrested Nasriddinov, a blogger and economist, on or around October 20, also on extremism charges (Article 159(4)) that appear to be related to the conspiracy charges against Abdullaev. Nasriddinov similarly faces up to 20 years in prison. As of late 2017, his relatives had not been informed of the grounds for the arrest, and there are fears that they are under pressure not to talk to journalists and human rights groups. He is being held in a SNB pre-trial detention center in Tashkent, and there are serious concerns that he may have also been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.

Akrom Malikov, a researcher at Uzbekistan’s Institute of Handicrafts of the Academy of Sciences,
Akrom Malikov
has also been implicated and questioned in Abdullaev’s case. He was detained in July 2016 on extremism charges for allegedly writing articles for the opposition People’s Movement of Uzbekistan under a pseudonym. He is serving a six-year sentence in Navoi prison.

“There is a real opportunity for change in Uzbekistan – and yet we hear of journalists and bloggers still being detained and tortured,” said Brigitte Dufour, director of IPHR. “This case is a test of whether Uzbekistan’s human rights situation is really improving or not.”

Over the last 15 years, the UN special rapporteur for torture, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Human Rights Committee, the US State Department, and the European Court of Human Rights, in a number of its rulings, and a number of national and international human rights groups have highlighted the widespread torture in Uzbekistan’s prisons and detention sites.

On November 30, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree prohibiting the courts from using evidence obtained through torture, and forbidding legal decisions based on any evidence not confirmed during trial. The decree, which comes into force in March, states that prosecutors will be required to check whether physical or psychological pressure was exerted on a defendant or their relatives. If enforced, the decree could help prevent torture and other ill-treatment in detention in Uzbekistan.

This case is yet another reminder that the Uzbek government should also allow for regular, unfettered, independent, expert monitoring of prison conditions,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “It should invite the UN special rapporteur on torture and other experts to visit the country and bring its laws and practices in line with international law and standards to help prevent torture in the future.”


7.2.18

Happy Twentieth Anniversary, Fergana.Ru Information Agency!



We would like to extend our sincere congratulations to all the staff of Fergananews and, in particular, to Fergananews agency correspondent Hayotkhon Nasreddinov and his family, and the family and friends of the late Alisher Saipov, who were awarded the Andrey Sakharov prize "For Courage" in the category of "Acts of Journalism" on 31 January 2018.

Alisher Saipov was awarded the prize posthumously. He died on October 24, 2007, after being shot in the back in Osh, Kyrgyzstan as he was walking down the street. To date no one has been brought to justice for his murder. Alisher Saipov worked as correspondent for Fergananews, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service, the Voice of America, and other publications. He covered the start of the so-called "March revolution" in 2005 in Kyrgyzstan, and reported on the aftermath of the Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan in May 2005.  Shortly before his death Saipov established and ran the newspaper Siyosat (Politics), which quickly became popular in southern Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan.

Hayotkhon Nasreddinov is a blogger, journalist, human rights activist, economist and teacher. As an economist he has worked in various organizations in Uzbekistan and has written over thirty articles about his main area of expertise, Uzbekistan’s banking sector. On October 20, 2017 Nasreddinov was detained in Tashkent and remains at present in a pre-trial detention facility of the National Security Services (more commonly known by its Russian acronym SNB) in Tashkent. There is no information about any charges against him or whether a court has sanctioned his arrest.

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the online edition of the independent news agency Fergananews, also known as Fergana.ru, established by editor-in-chief Daniil Kislov in 1998 with the domain registered on 21 July 1999. Over the years, the news site has acquired thousands of regular readers, and counts amongst its authors Central Asia’s leading experts.  Fergananews covers issues of importance to the region such as human rights, humanitarian crises, labour migration, political developments and the actions and attitudes of the authorities in Central Asian countries towards the general public.

Fergananews’s correspondents on the ground often work in stressful and high-risk situations.

Currently, three Fergananews correspondents are in detention in Central Asia: Bobomurod Abdullayev and Hayotkhon Nasreddinov in Uzbekistan and Khayirullo Mirsaidov in Tajikistan. All of them have been detained on politically-motivated charges and have been denied access to adequate legal assistance. Over the last five years more than fifteen Fergananews journalists and correspondents in Central Asia have been the subject of politically-motivated prosecutions.

Fergananews has been blocked by state providers in Central Asian countries at various times, but despite these difficulties it continues to provide a vital platform for the exchange of views and commentaries on current affairs in the region and beyond.

We congratulate the staff of Fergananews on this anniversary and hope that they will continue their important presence in the information space and remain a source for comprehensive and independent information from the region.

We express our solidarity wi th the journalists imprisoned in Central Asia and their families and we will continue to seek justice for them.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), USA
Uzbek-German Forum (UGF), Germany



This statement is also supported by the following members of the Civic Solidarity Platform:

Bir Duno, Kyrgyzstan
Article 19, UK
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor, Armenia
Association UMDPL, Ukraine
Women of the Don, Russia
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Belarus
Public Verdict, Russia
Helsinki Committee of Armenia, Armenia
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Bulgaria
Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Lithuania
Liberico - Partnership for Human Rights, Germany
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw, Poland
Citizens’ Watch, Russia
Centre de la Protection Internationale, France
Center of Civil Freedoms, Tajikistan
Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
Centre for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Freedom Now, United States
Regional Center for Strategic Studies, Georgia
Helsinki Association,  Armenia
Center for Participation and Development, Georgia
Human Rights Matter, Germany
KRF Public Alternative, Ukraine
Legal Transformation Center, Belarus
Human Rights Information Center,Ukraine




5.2.18

If Paul Day builds a monument to late Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, the blood of his victims will taint the artist’s work forever

Islam Karimov ruled Uzbekistan brutally from 1989 until his death in 2016. (c)
Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

An open letter from Uzbek human rights activists to the British sculptor Paul Day, commissioned to commemorate former President Islam Karimov in December. The sculpture is due to be placed outside the Uzbek embassy in Moscow. 

Dear Mr Day,

Thanks to the man you plan to celebrate with your latest sculpture, none of us have been able to visit our homeland for many years. During Islam Karimov’s reign of terror, we lost loved ones, family members, friends. Brutal crackdowns by the security forces he controlled have denied countless of our fellow Uzbeks the kind of reunion captured by your talented work, the Meeting Place at St Pancras station.

You must already know that Karimov ordered the massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Andijan in 2005. It is unlikely we will ever know the exact number, because he had the bodies hidden in mass graves. Those who tried to show them to the world were silenced.

You must know that before he died in 2016, Karimov subjected millions of people, including young children, to slavery in the cotton fields. That he imprisoned thousands of real or imagined opponents. That he had them tortured, sometimes to death. That he attacked artists who dared venture into politics and imposed strict censorship on the media, social sciences, literature and arts. These are the values you will be celebrating with your homage to his legacy.

How much are you being paid to heroise a monster, Mr. Day? 

You should know that the money you receive for this sculpture is dirty money. Karimov and his family abused their power to steal millions, if not billions of dollars from the state. They extorted lavish bribes from Western companies seeking to do business in Uzbekistan. His eldest daughter, Gulnara Karimova, extorted hundreds of  millions of dollars in bribes from international telecom companies. She laundered this money through dozens of offshore companies. Now the US has placed Gulnara Karimova on the Magnitsky sanctions list and her assets have been frozen. 

The Islam Karimov Foundation paying you was formed by his younger daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillayeva. Its purpose is to whitewash her family’s soiled reputation. Let us tell you where her money comes from. Under Karimov, Lola’s husband Timur Tillayev mysteriously gained control of Abu-Sahiy, a huge wholesale market in Tashkent. For years, they paid a meagre $625,000 in tax a month on this business empire. With Karimov gone, the market was wrested from the Tillayevs’ control in November last year. In the first two weeks of December alone, the market generated around $4.4 million in taxes, suggesting they were paying only a fraction  of the taxes due.

We are campaigning for the Uzbek authorities to dig deeper into the origins of the Tillayevs’ wealth. We suspect they will discover evidence of tax evasion and money laundering. If they do, the Foundation and any payments to you will come under the spotlight. Should the assets be frozen, you may never be paid in full.

Yet money should be the least of your worries. What of your artistic legacy?

One of your most famous works, Battle of Britain, pays tribute to the men and women who risked their lives to save civilians from Adolf Hitler’s bombing campaign. Liverpool is raising $2.5 million to build your Battle of the Atlantic Memorial. We assume you would not taint their legacy and yours by building a homage to Hitler. Why are you risking it with this celebration of a modern mass murderer? 

In 1991 you received a Prince’s Trust Award. The Taylor Foundation Prize in 1993. Lauréat of the Susse Foundry Prize in 1999 and an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Gloucestershire. We will be writing to each, as well as the Liverpool City Council, to ask if they still endorse an artist prepared to memorialise a dictator, a killer and a suppressor of artistic freedoms.

We urge you to reconsider and to pull out of your arrangement with the Karimov foundation.

Sincerely,

Nadejda Atayeva,  Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of France, n.atayeva[at]gmail.com

Umida Niyazova, Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, resident of Germany, umida.niyazova[at]gmail.com

Jodgor Obid, former political prisoner, poet, member of the International Pen-Club (Austria), resident of Austria

Ulughbek Haydarov, journalist, former political prisoner, resident of Canada

Daniel Anderson, former political prisoner, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of Sweden

Kudrat Babadjanov, Uzbek journalist, editor of Eltuz.com, Sweden

Alisher Abidov, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, resident of Norway

Anvar Usmanov, journalist, resident of Germany

Mirrahmat Muminov, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, US resident

Dilobar Erkinzoda, Uzbek refugee, resident of Sweden

Salahaddin Usmanov, political emigre




30.1.18

Uzbekistan: blogger Haethan Gairatovich Nasreddinov held for over three months in detention

Haethan Nasreddinov
In October 2017, Haethan Gairatovich Nasreddinov  was detained in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent and has since been held in the detention facility of the National Security Service.  There is no information about any charges against him or whether a court has sanctioned his arrest. He is a well-known academic, independent economic expert who the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) believe was targeted because of his writings and blog posts. 

47-year-old Haethan Gairatovich Nasreddinov  has worked with Radio Liberty (Radio Free Europe) since 2010, writing blog articles.  A Doctor of Economics, he has written over 30 articles on the banking sector, which is his field of expertise. He also worked as a freelance correspondent for the Ferghana.Ru news agency, where he wrote articles and commentaries about the banking sector and additionally on issues related to democracy, and the situation of children and the elderly.  

IPHR and AHRCA believe that Haethan Nasreddinov was detained for exercising his right to freedom of expression in legitimate ways. 

Since he was detained serious violations of his procedural rights have reportedly been committed by the authorities. In particular, he has not been granted access to a lawyer. There are also serious concerns that he may have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment since such practices are known to be widespread in the SNB Tashkent detention centre where he is held.  SNB officials are reported to remain present when relatives meet detainees, and therefore AHRCA and IPHR fear that Nasreddinov has not been able to openly speak about his treatment with any visiting family members.  

Over three months after his detention, it is unknown what, if any, charges have been brought against Nasreddinov and his relatives avoid contact with journalists and human rights activists, indicating that they may have come under pressure from the authorities.

We would like to draw the attention of the international community and in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and international organizations in the field of human rights to the plight of Nasreddinov. We urge them to call on the Uzbekistani authorities to ensure that he is immediately and unconditionally released unless there are credible charges against him and his arrest has been sanctioned by court and that he is not being punished for exercising his right to freedom of expression, as protected by national and international law. The Uzbekistani authorities should also ensure also that Haethan Nasreddinov is immediately given unimpeded and confidential access to a lawyer of his choice, that he is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while in detention and that his relatives are not subjected to pressure, in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations.






20.12.17

Uzbekistan: some positive developments but critics and journalists still face reprisals

Agzam Turgunov, 2017
This update was prepared for the CIVICUS Monitor by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) covering developments on civic freedoms in Uzbekistan from September to December 2017.
In this period, the Uzbekistani government remained concerned about improving its reputation in the eyes of the international community. However, the extent to which the recent reforms announced by President Mirziyoyev and his government will improve the overall human rights situation cannot yet be assessed. Thus far, many of the positive initiatives announced in recent months appear to be more in word than in actions.
Opening of the OSCE Central Asia Media Conference in Tashkent. More than 130 participants #CAMC17 pic.twitter.com/JDkxAKY5x3
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) October 18, 2017
Expression and Association
Some signs of positive transformation
In 2017, some steps were taken towards increased press freedom in Uzbekistan, as previously reported on the Monitor. On 19th October, the OSCE's 19th Central Asia Media Conference took place in Tashkent. Noted improvements included some national television coverage of state assemblies showing discussions on problems and issues that were previously taboo. In addition, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has more often publicly criticised the work of high-ranking officials and state institutions and some, but not all, critics of the government seem able to speak out without fear of retribution. 
The state's granting of permission for the independent festival VIDEOART.UZ to take place after a four-year lull was viewed as a further sign of opening space in Uzbekistan. On 19th November 2017, Tashkent hosted the 28th independent video art festival, entitled "Trofimov Readings", which featured the works of Dmitry and Angela Trofimov, formerly citizens of Uzbekistan who now live in Russia. The festival was held under the slogan "New old black and white cinema". Although all seven films presented at the festival are old, filmed by the Trofimovs in and around Tashkent from 1990 to 1993, for the majority of people in Tashkent and even for sophisticated art critics, they are new as most people have not seen them before. The festival was organised by the founder of the independent "Center for Defamation and Insult", Oleg Karpov.
And Azam Farmonov too! Released after too, too long in prison in #Uzbekistanhttps://t.co/YWDYG4OM7G
— Mihra Rittmann (@MihraRittmann) October 4, 2017
Long overdue releases of four human rights defenders and journalists
In a positive development leading up to an the OSCE's 19th Central Asia Media Conference, four journalists and human rights defenders were released from detention.
Human rights defender Azam Farmonov was conditionally released from prison on 3rd October after spending 11 years in prison on extortion charges of which he was convicted in an unfair trial in 2006. The charges against him were widely believed to be politically-motivated in retaliation for his work defending the rights of farmers and persons with disabilities. In 2015, Farmonov’s original prison sentence was arbitrarily extended in a closed trial for another five years for alleged infringement of prison rules. The rules of conditional release mean that although Farmonov is in poor health, he has to pay 20 percent of his salary to the state. He is forced to work, since he has not yet been able to access the necessary medical treatment for health issues he developed when in prison. 
Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, independent journalist and human rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights, was released from prison on 4th October. He was sentenced in 2008 to ten years in prison on fabricated charges of drug possession after an unfair trial.
Human rights activist Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, 66, convicted to 5 years (extended later) in 2009 was freed today in Uzbekistan. Photo #Ezgulik pic.twitter.com/9SHXp0yGGu— Navbahor Imamova (@Navbahor) October 16, 2017
On 9th October, Azam Turgunov, head of the "Mazlum" human rights organisation was released after ten years in prison. He was sentenced in 2008 on allegedly fabricated charges of extortion in an unfair trial and suffered torture while in detention.
On 16th October, human rights activist Ganikhon Mamatkhonov was also released from detention. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2009 on politically-motivated charges and his sentence was later arbitrarily extended for alleged violations of prison rules. 
In addition, working groups from the Special Commission for the preparation of materials on pardoning convicted persons serving sentences in penal institutions, established by President Mirziyoyev in September 2017, reviewed prisoners’ case files and conducted interviews with convicted persons. As a result, Mirziyoyev signed a decree pardoning 2,700 convicts, and 956 people were released from prison colonies. Amnesties and pardons can be in the form of a full or partial exemption from punishment, or conditional early release. 
In #Uzbeklistan, human rights activist Azam Turgunov speaks to @ozodlik after his release, (In Uzbek) https://t.co/Hgg2xK2XXD pic.twitter.com/txhlclT6nL
— Majlis Podcast (@Majlis_Podcast) October 10, 2017
ACHR and IPHR report that on 30th November 2017, President Mirziyoyev signed a decree prohibiting the courts' use of evidence obtained through torture, and forbade legal decisions on the basis of any evidence that was not confirmed during the trial. The degree stipulated that the prosecutor in charge of the criminal case should check whether physical or psychological pressure had been used on defendants or their relatives. If implemented in practice, these measures should prevent some of the serious miscarriages of justice which have frequently occurred in the past in Uzbekistan, as critics of the authorities have been tortured to force confessions for crimes they did not commit. The decree will come into force in March 2018. 
28 NGOs call on the authorities of #Uzbekistan to immediately release Bobomurad Abdullayev #OSCE #CAMC17 https://t.co/IysBy33YwU pic.twitter.com/33kgnb1cRI
— CivicSolidarity (@CivicSolidarity) October 2, 2017
New arrests, however, cloud the picture
The detention of independent freelance journalist Bobomurad Abdullayev by National Security Service (SNB) officials on 27th September 2017 in Tashkent indicates that independent journalists are still at risk of reprisal. Abdullayev previously headed the organisation OZOD OVOZ (Free Voice) and was a correspondent for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Fergana.ru, which is blocked in Uzbekistan. After his arrest, he was held incommunicado in detention for two days at an SNB pre-trial detention centre in Tashkent and on 1st October, was reportedly charged with anti-constitutional activities (article 159 of the Criminal Code) during a closed hearing at Yunusobad District Court in Tashkent. If found guilty, he could face up to 20 years in prison. The security services have accused him of working together with the exiled political opposition leader, Muhammad Salih, and of calling for the overthrow of the government under the pseudonym Usman Khaknazar. His colleagues are convinced that the charges are politically motivated. 
On 14th December 2017, he was allowed to see his defence lawyer for half an hour and for the first time since he was arrested. A SNB investigator was present during the meeting. There are serious concerns that he may be currently (or has been) subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the SNB pre-trial detention centre which is notorious for human rights violations against prisoners.
Since Abdullayev’s arrest, other government critics have also been implicated in the criminal case, including 27-year-old Akrom Malikov, employee of the Institute of Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences who was detained by the National Security Service in July in connection with critical articles published online. In addition, Shavkatjon Olloerov, who owns a restaurant frequented by high-ranking officials, and businessman Ravshanbek Salaev were both detained on the day after Abdullayev's arrest. On 20th October, the well-known economist, blogger, journalist and civic activist Hayot Nasreddinov was also arrested. His relatives have not yet been informed of the grounds for the arrest, and there are fears that they have been put under pressure not to talk to journalists. He is currently being held in a SNB pre-trial detention centre in Tashkent. There are serious concerns that he may have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment at the centre.
In August 2017, President Mirziyoyev announced that thousands of people had been taken off a “blacklist” for entering and exiting the country and called on those blacklisted and living abroad to return to Uzbekistan. However, when writer Nurullo Otahonov (pen name Nurulloh Muhammad Raufhon) returned to Tashkent on 27th September 2017 from voluntary exile he was detained at the airport. He was released on 1st October but is under house arrest and faces charges of extremism for his book, Bu Kunlar (These Days), which criticises the Uzbekistani authorities' actions since independence. The book was banned in Uzbekistan.
Detained #Uzbek Writer Nurullo Otahonov Released From Jail https://t.co/kQfuuxgZjW Charges still not dropped #Uzbekistan #CentralAsia
— Eurasia Update (@eurasia_update) October 2, 2017
And still others remain behind bars …
Despite the releases in recent months reported above, many journalists, human rights defenders and activists remain behind bars in conditions severely detrimental to their health.
IPHR and its partners report that at least 14 government critics, human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents remain in prison, after being sentenced to lengthy sentences following unfair trials, including:
  • human rights defenders - Mekriniso KhamadovaZulkumor KhamadovaGaybullo DhalilovChuan MatmakulovZafarjon RakhimovYuldash RasulovIsroil KholdorovFakhriddin TillaevDilmurod Saidov;   
  • independent journalists - Aziz YusupovGairat MikliboevYusuf Ruzimuradov and Bobomurad Abdullayev; and 
  • Dilorom Abdukodirova - a witness to the Andijan tragedy in 2005. 
Although some sources report that employees of the academic journal Irmok, namely Botirbek Eshkusiyev, Bahrom Ibragimov, Davron Kabilov, Davron Todzhiev and Ravshanbek Vafoev were released in 2015 and 2016, information about their release has not been confirmed as human rights defenders and diplomats have not yet been able to meet with them. Similarly, human rights defender and lawyer Matluba Kamilova is reported to have been released in 2015 but independent journalists and human rights activists have not managed to meet her and so there are fears that she may still be in prison.
At the Central Asia Media Conference in Tashkent, OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desire called “for the release of Dilmurod Saiid, Yusuf Ruzimurodov, Bobomurad Abdullaev and all other journalists still imprisoned”. 
In December, human rights defender and former prisoner Azam Turgunov told AHRCA that: 
“For about two years I was held with the journalist and human rights defender Dilmurad Saidov in prison colony 64/49. I saw him after he had been treated for tuberculosis. He was very sick, and suffers from acute stress and anxiety due to the deaths of his wife and daughter. [They died in a car accident while on the way to see him some years ago]. He needs urgent medical treatment. I ask everyone not to ignore his case but to do everything possible to secure his release from detention”.
IPHR and AHRCA have called on the Uzbekistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these and all others who have been imprisoned on politically-motivated grounds in order to demonstrate their serious commitment to the protection of fundamental rights as set out in the constitution.
Was so heartened today in #Tashkent to finally meet #Uzbekistan #humanrights defender #AkzamTurgunov, freed last month after 8 years of prison and torture. Turgunov's spirit was never broken & he's ready to begin the next chapter of his public service. He needs our support. pic.twitter.com/mlem7BquKU
— Steve Swerdlow (@steveswerdlow) November 16, 2017
And still challenges remain…
Despite some of the positive developments cited above, challenges remain concerning freedom of expression and the media. Laws governing freedom of expression and the media continue to severely restrict independent journalism.
State control of access to the internet and to proxy servers used to avoid censorship remains tight, with public access to independent news websites and social media periodically restricted. Media outlets in Uzbekistan operate under close state supervision and independent journalists risk reprisals for their professional activities. 
State intolerance of open public debate persists, particularly on human rights issues. Risks and threats to the safety of civil society activists continue, and members of the general public are generally afraid to speak out about political issues and share their opinions. 
“Planned” detentions of citizens on Tashkent streets by police
Detentions of citizens without identity documents have increased in recent months. At a 2nd November press conference, the first deputy commander of the Patrol Guards brigade under the Main Department of Internal Affairs of Tashkent stated that "law enforcement officers have recently been carrying out preventive work, aimed at preventing crime. Such activities involve checks on people who are likely to carry out crimes, those who cause suspicion and those who are wandering about aimlessly”.
These “planned” detentions are taking place on the basis of the new law which came into force on 17th March this year and which provides for regularly "scheduled" police detentions of any citizen in any place. As a rule, detainees are immediately taken to the local police station and held for several hours until checks have been carried out. Such identity checks and short term detentions affect critics of the authorities in particular. For example:
On 7th November, artist Aleksandr Barkovski was detained for a few hours and questioned for an hour at the police department at Bukhara train station after taking photographs of a public toilet.
Independent journalist Sid Yanishev was detained twice in November and December. On 12th December 2017, he was detained for 14 hours in the Tashkent village of Almazar and was taken to police station No. 61. He was questioned by police officers who confiscated his camera and dictaphone. He was subsequently transferred to the regional department of Shaikhantursky district of Tashkent, where his fingerprints were taken. In order to be released from detention, Yanishev had to agree to “voluntarily” delete all information from his camera and dictaphone.
Murad Djuraev has passed away but will live forever in our hearts https://t.co/PYYTjbY3Smpic.twitter.com/Wbu5ZIbwqG
— AHRCA (@ahrca) December 4, 2017
A tragic end for former political prisoner, Murad Djurayev
On 7th October 2017, former Member of Parliament Murad Djurayev, who spent 21 years in prison on politically-motivated charges, was granted permission to leave the country for urgent medical treatment. Tragically, however, Djuraev died suddenly on 4th December 2017, before he had a chance to leave Uzbekistan. He was 65 years old. Before his passing, Djuraev spoke about his detention:
Despite all the years I spent behind bars, when I suffered betrayal, separation from my family, hunger, torture, and when I lost the will to fight … solidarity proved to be stronger than all the obstacles and trials. As long as there is a human rights movement, there is a chance of saving those who share the idea of living in a just society”. 
Travel bans on former political prisoners and critics of the regime
Other former prisoners have not been given permission to leave the country, including former newspaper editor, Muhammad Bekjanov, who was released in February 2017 after spending 17 years in prison on politically-motivated charges and who remains under police supervision. Also, human rights defender and writer Mamadali Makhmudov was released from prison in 2014 after serving a 14-year prison sentence handed down on politically-motivated grounds has not yet been granted an exit visa, for which he has repeatedly applied since June 2016 and has therefore not been able to leave the country for medical treatment. Makhmudov has heart, stomach and kidney problems and needs a pacemaker fitted.
Other individuals not in detention, but who criticise or who are perceived to criticise the Uzbekistani authorities have also been arbitrarily denied permission to leave Uzbekistan. For example, the artist Vyacheslav Akhunov has not obtained permission to travel abroad, despite repeated appeals since 2012. On 17th December, he confirmed that the Visa and Passport Office continues to refuse him permission to leave the country. Akhunov learned from a contact that the refusal is due to his continued criticism of the political authorities on social media.
17000 sign petition to investigate student Zhasur Ibragimov's murder in unusual display of indignation in Uzbekistan https://t.co/OfCy3rHrsv
— Nations in Transit (@FH_NIT) June 7, 2017
Peaceful Assembly
Uzbekistani law protects the right to participate in meetings and demonstrations, which can only be prohibited on security grounds. However, in 2016 amendments were adopted to the procedure for coordinating the activities of NGOs, creating additional obstacles to the freedoms of assembly and association. The bureaucratic and burdensome requirements governing public event organising perpetuate a system where the authorities grant permission for meetings, rather than receive notification of them. Organisers and participants of protests therefore still risk prosecution for criminal offences.
Developments in the case of Zhasur Ibragimov
As reported earlier this year, Zhasurbek Ibragimov, a student at the Borovskiy Medical College, died in Tashkent after being beaten up by unknown assailants.  
Civic activists Irina Zaidman and Maria Legler organised an online petition calling on the Uzbekistani authorities to find those responsible for Zhasurbek’s death and bring them to justice. The petition received unprecedented public support and was signed by over 20,000 persons. At a rally held in Duslik Park on 4th June, Deputy Chief of the Tashkent Central Internal Affairs Directorate Doniyor Tashkhodzhaev assured the participants that this tragic case would be thoroughly investigated. However, on 15th November 2017, Zaydman was summoned to the police station, where she was detained. Police officers searched her house on the same day. The next day she and Legler were found guilty of organising an unsanctioned meeting and sentenced to ten and 15 days of administrative detention respectively. Neither woman had a lawyer present at the closed hearing when they were sentenced, which is in violation of the Criminal Procedural Code of Uzbekistan. 
On 30th October, the judge of the Mirabad District Criminal Court of Tashkent, Matchanboy Matchanov, ruled that only Islombek Tulyaganov was guilty of causing Zhasurbek’s death and he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. The judge found the other defendants not guilty, causing a public outcry, and Zhasurbek’s mother filed an appeal. Tashkent Court of Appeals was due to rule on the case on 1st December but the hearing was postponed. This case illustrates clearly how in Uzbekistan relations and connections prevail over the rule of law. The lawyers and relatives of Ibragimov are being subjected to pressure and harassment by law enforcement officials. The parties to the case are currently appealing the verdict of the court of first instance and a final decision will be taken by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan. A Facebook group entitled "Have questions! Why are there no answers?" is monitoring developments in this case.