Missing Uzbek journalist sentenced to serve brief term for “hooliganism”
Fergana learned that journalist Sergey Naumov is charged with hooliganism and sentenced to serve a brief term of 12 days. The investigators committed numerous violations of procedures, and lawyers believe the trial and the subsequent sentence are a “set up.”
Background: Sergey Naumov, 50, is an independent journalist and expert who lives and works in Khorazm Region in western Uzbekistan. Local police took him away from his apartment on the evening of 21 Sep 2013. His friends and family were unable to locate him for 72 hours. The local police station, the prosecutor’s office and the National Security Service office claimed they had no information about him. Although it was verified that a local police officer in charge of Mr. Naumov’s neighborhood was among those visiting him on 21 September.
The Human Rights in Central Asia Association circulated a press release on Tuesday reading “On 24 Sep 2013, Sergey Naumov was located in the Urgench city police department; he is kept there based on a court verdict, which found him guilty of committing minor hooliganism provided for in Article 183 of the Uzbek Administrative Code.”
The Urgench City Court’s ruling indicates that it heard a case in an opening hearing with the participation of a judge, a clerk, an assistant prosecutor, the plaintiff and the defendant, Naumov, and an interpreter on 21 Sep 2013. According to the ruling in Fergana’s possession, “Ms. D. Matyakubova was walking to a pharmacy at 1600 hours when Sergey Naumov has bumped into her near house No. 20 on Al-Kharezmi Street on 21 Sep 2013. He started harassing her, groping her breast and saying profanities.” The court ruled these alleged actions as “minor hooliganism and violation of public order” (Article 183 of the Uzbek Administrative Code).
Mr. Naumov pleaded not guilty during a one-on-one session with the “victim.” According to his words, he did involuntarily run into Ms. Matyakubova. But he denies other allegations. Mr. Naumov states he has done nothing to disrupt public order. In her turn, the “victim” was indignant that Mr. Naumov was refuting her testimony and decided she would “not forgive him.” She pleaded with the judge to “punish him to the fullest extent of law.”
The protocol filed on the crime scene and anonymous eyewitnesses’ testimonies confirm Mr. Naumov’s guilt, the presiding judge ruled. The judge then issued a verdict to arrest Mr. Naumov for 12 days for violating Article 183 of the Uzbek Administrative Code, which entered force at 1800 hours on 21 Sep 2013. The judge also ruled Mr. Naumov is to compensate 15% of judicial fees. The ruling can be appealed within the next 10 days.
Based on the aforementioned facts, the Human Rights in Central Asia Association points out that the trial was held in violation of objectivity and justice. The court, for example, does not disclose the eyewitnesses’ names and does not consider the testimonies of the defendant’s eyewitnesses. The defendant was unable to use a lawyer’s services and the defendant was not allowed to study the case before the trial. Mr. Naumov’s lawyer attempted to meet him, but unsuccessfully so far. The lawyer was retained on 24 Sep 2013, but the defendant was unable to use his services.
According to Fergana’s own sources, Ms. Matyakubova’s decency is seriously doubted. While the verdict does not include her first name, it is Dilorom. This “victim” is a co-owner of a brothel enjoying the police patronage. She was earlier engaged in other similar set ups to eliminate those whom authorities want to get rid of. But that is not the most alarming aspect of her involvement.
An anonymous source in the local police station told Fergana that the independent journalist could face an even harsher trumped up charge—human trafficking. Bobomurod Razzakov, the 60-year-old head of the Bukhara branch of the Ezgulik human rights society, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment exactly “for human trafficking” on 24 Sep 2013. Vasila Inoyatova, the chairwoman of the society, maintains that the real reasond behind his imprisonment is his activities as a human rights advocate.
“Persecuting dissidents, activists and human rights advocates has been happening in Uzbekistan for the last several years; especially the 2010-2013 timeframe. That is when the European, the US and the Russian leaderships turned the blind eye on the Islam Karimov regime’s crimes,” says Daniil Kislov, editor-in-chief of Fergana, who is well acquainted with Mr. Naumov. “So long as arrest Naumov is denied access to his lawyer, there is no reason to speak about transparency and accuracy of the investigation into the allegations advanced against the journalist. As far as the guilty verdict is concerned, I do not have even a hint of doubt that the entire case is trumped up.”
[Passage omitted: A group is planning to hold a rally in front of the Uzbek embassy in Moscow to protest pressure exerted on him.]
Fergana continues its coverage of the case.