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M. Bekjanov, Uzbekistan, jailed since 1999

M. Bekjanov, Uzbekistan, jailed since 1999

Article ID:

17634

Day: 13
Country: Uzbekistan
Journalists: Muhammad Bekjanov, Yusuf Ruzimuradov
Media: Erk
Jailed since: 15 March, 1999

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calls for release of Uzbek journalists Muhammad Bekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov after 15 years in jail


Jailed for over fifteen years, Uzbek editor Muhammad Bekjanov and reporter Yusuf Ruzimuradov are the world's longest-imprisoned journalists. Both journalists were jailed on anti-state charges after extradition from Ukraine, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The two were also tortured before their trial started and have been jailed in prisons normally reserved for individuals convicted of serious crimes.

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Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov both lived in exile in Ukraine where they produced their newspaper Erk, named after Uzbekistan's eponymous opposition party. It was also there where they were first detained and later extradited at the request of Uzbek authorities. Six months after their arrest, a Tashkent court convicted them on charges of publishing and disseminating a banned publication, as well as participating in a prohibited political protest and attempting to overthrow the government. Muhammad Salih, Bekjanov’s brother and leader of the Erk party, was also sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia and now lives in exile in Norway.

In January 2012, shortly before his expected release, authorities extended Bekjanov's sentence by five years in prison for allegedly violating unnamed prison rules, according to regional reports. As of late 2013, Bekjanov was being held in a prison colony outside of Kasan in southwestern Uzbekistan.

Ruzimuradov was last known to be serving his 15-year sentence in a penal colony outside of Navoi in central Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan authorities have repeatedly ignored inquiries on his condition.

Bekjanov's wife Nina spoke to reporters after visiting her husband in March 2013, saying that his health had deteriorated and needed immediate health care for a hernia and a relapse of tuberculosis, according to Radio Ozodlik (part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). While he had not complained of health problems prior to this visit, Nina said he told her: “There's not much longer left [for me] to suffer.”

Press freedom in Uzbekistan has steadily declined since the country gained independence in 1991, with President Islam Karimov practically running the country single-handedly. There is no real political opposition in the country, no religious freedom and the state maintains a tight grip on the media. The government posits that denying press freedoms is key to taming threats posed by radical Islamist groups. Void of any independent critical news, the few journalists left in Uzbekistan face many risks for trying to do their job.


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calls for release of Uzbek journalists Muhammad Bekjanov and Yusuf Ruzimuradov after 15 years in jail


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wm_WanIfra

Date

2014-04-16 11:02

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Andrew Heslop

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2014-04-03 20:08