Uzbekistan: Human Rights Defender Loses Appeal
An Uzbek court upheld the conviction of a human rights defender for homosexual conduct in violation of his basic rights, Human Rights Watch said today.
Ruslan Sharipov, a journalist and human rights defender who had written widely about government corruption, arrived at the courthouse with a swollen eye, and injury above his eye, and with his glasses broken, raising fears that he was tortured in custody.
“Ruslan Sharipov should have been released,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division. “Instead, the persecution against him continues and he remains at risk of torture and ill-treatment.”
At a closed hearing on September 25, the Tashkent City Court reduced Sharipov’s prison sentence from five and a half to four years. The court upheld the charges of homosexuality (article 120 of the Uzbek criminal code) and sex with a minor (article 128), but dropped the charge of involving minors in “antisocial behavior” (article 127).
Officials attributed Sharipov’s injuries to a minor vehicle accident on the way to court in which Ruslan was the only one injured. On September 17, Sharipov had a letter smuggled out of prison in which he begged Uzbek President Islam Karimov to cancel his appeal due to his strong fears of being both tortured to compel him to repeat his confession in court, and of being ill-treated en route to the court.
Since his arrest on May 29, Sharipov has been at risk of torture and ill-treatment. During the first days of his detention in May, arresting officers threatened Sharipov with physical violence, including rape with a bottle. In a letter smuggled out of prison on September 5, Sharipov said that police officers placed a gas mask over his head, sprayed an unknown substance into his throat and injected an unknown substance into his veins. Sharipov also stated that agents threatened to inject him with the HIV/AIDS virus, and forced him to write his own suicide note. He further stated that other officials threatened physical harassment of his lawyers if he did not dismiss them, and demanded that he ask pardon of the government for spreading “disinformation” about it.
On August 28, approximately a month after Sharipov’s conviction, masked men in camouflaged uniforms kidnapped and severely beat Sharipov’s public defender, Surat Ikramov. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has promised an investigation into this attack but to date has issued no findings.
Sharipov’s defense attorney had requested an adjournment because Sharipov was feeling ill as a result of his injury; the presiding judge declined the request.
“The international community should call on the Uzbek government to release Sharipov immediately, pending an independent inquiry into the case and Sharipov’s treatment,” said Denber. “And it should encourage Uzbekistan to repeal the criminalization of homosexual conduct.”
Additional information about the case of Ruslan Sharipov can be found at http://hrw.org/campaigns/uzbekistan/sharipov.htm
For further information please contact:
In Tashkent, Matilda Bogner: +99893-181-5422
In New York, Acacia Shields: +1-212-216-1280
In New York, Scott Long: +1-212-216-1297