16 july 2018

Central Asia news

«I would not dispute», the former defender of journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev said in his interview to Fergana News

28.12.2017 17:20 msk

Fergana

Human Rights Politics Uzbekistan

Photo of Bobomurod Abdullayev

On 26 December, Tashkent journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev accused of an infringement on the constitutional order in Uzbekistan has suddenly rejected the assistance of lawyer Sergei Mayorov. He is the only defender who has managed to meet with the detained journalist two times, and who at least somehow has tried to influence the outcome of this case. However, he has not had much success: the investigators ignored all the lawyer's demands and refused to give him an opportunity to acquaint him not only with the course of the investigation but also with charges his client faces.

Fergana News asked Sergey Mayorov on the phone why Bobomurod declined his help, what the current state of the journalist is and how soon the investigation against him would be completed.

- Mr Mayorov, you said that you would have continued defending the rights of Bobomurod Abdullayev until he personally rejects your help, which, in fact, followed. During the meeting - when did he tell you about it - how did he look, what was his psychological state? Where did this conversation take place?

- Indeed, since 5 o'clock pm on 26 December 2017, since signing the protocol of Abdullayev's refusal from my legal aid I am no longer his lawyer. I could not refuse his protection on my initiative after agreeing rendering legal assistance to Abdullayev.

Our conversation took place in a special room for interrogations in the building of the investigation department of the National Security Service [SNB] at the Gvardeiskaya [Street] (the same place Abdullayev currently held in the SNB detention centre). The investigator was present continuously. Bobomurod was calm, balanced. [His] appearance also looked normal: I saw no signs of exhaustion, damage, leanness, fatigue and other things.

- Would you challenge this decision or take any other steps in this matter? You should have been given the opportunity to meet with Abdullaev alone, shouldn't you?

- No, I would not dispute anything. Bobomurod personally told me several times about the refusal of my aid and signed the protocol for it with me. Indeed, Article 52 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been violated: I was not given the opportunity to speak with Bobomurod alone. I never met him in private.

Lawyer Sergey Mayorov
- Abdullayev explained his refusal from your assistance by the fact that you misinterpreted his words sounded at the previous meeting. Are there any explanations for these claims?

- Verbally, Bobomurod motivated his refusal from my help in that either I misinformed his words to Surat Ikramov (the leader of the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan, who actively covers the case of Abdullayev - note by Fergana News) or Surat himself distorted them. The essence of the "irregularity" is the following: Surat Ikramov wrote that Bobomurod admits his guilt partially, only in an episode related to his "Response to Peacekeepers" article. In fact, Bobomurod pleads his guilt over all Internet articles, which he published at the request of Salih (Muhammad Salih - a well-known opposition leader living in exile, chairman of the People's Movement of Uzbekistan - note by Fergana News).

There is one more inaccuracy. Surat Ikramov reported that Bobomurod had helped Salih publish articles. But Bobomurod claims that at the first meeting he told me otherwise - that Salih forced him to publish articles.

I do not have explanations for your publication about these claims. But I note that I felt neither hostility nor dislike from Bobomurod. On the contrary, he expressed gratitude for meeting with him, and with his wife before that, and reassuring her, and also provided Bobomurod with a photo of his children and his wife made the week before the second meeting. The investigator immediately took the photo away.

- Who else of journalist's relatives did you see? Have you already told them that Abdullayev declined your help?

- I talked with Bobomurod's wife and sister. They are very upset, now also because I no longer deal with his case. I did not communicate with Bobomurod's mother.

- Do they have the opportunity to see Abdullayev, hand him food, things?

- There are transfer rules in the detention centre. I do not know them, but I know that [his] wife gave Bobomurod food.

- Now Abdullayev has only the defender appointed by the state? Or is lawyer Munozhat Parpieva still engaged with the case (it was reported that she had been trying to meet him unsuccessfully for several months)?

- No, you have been misinformed. Now Bobomurod is assisted by a lawyer under the contract. Indeed, it is the same lawyer Bobomurod had at the initial stage of the investigation. Then he acted at the invitation of the investigative body and had the status of a public defender. Later, Bobomurod's mother made an agreement with him on providing her son with legal aid. From this moment he is no longer a public defender, but a defender under the contract. I'm not familiar with Munozhat Parpieva. I did not talk to her; her status is not known to me.

- Have you met with the former state defender of Abdullayev, now "defender under the contract"? What kind of person is he?

- I have not met him. But, even if I had, because of lawyer ethics, I leave your question without comment.

- On 14 November, Tulkun Orifzhanov, the lawyer, had been admitted to Abdullayev, who two weeks later refused to lead his case "for health reasons". Do you know anything about this? Has a weak health become the reason for refusal?

- I do not know anything about him.

- Have you felt pressure while you were dealing with this case?

- I have not felt any pressure towards myself. It was different: my demands have been simply ignored. In this connection, I appealed to the National Security Service, to the Prosecutor General, and to the President.

- Were you acquainted with the course of the investigation? At what stage? When will the trial begin, is it unknown?

- I did not get acquainted with the course of the investigation. [My] legitimate requirements to acquaint me with the documents of procedural actions conducted with the participation of my client have been ignored. Surat Ikramov has given me the decision of the court about the measure of restraint. I have also not been informed of the nature of the charges. However, at the first meeting, Bobomurod said that he had partially admitted the guilt, but to my question, what was the charge? [He] answered: the guilt of the "Response to Peacekeepers" Internet publication where he had written that the Karimov regime could not be peacefully removed, only by force. From here I suggested that Bobomurod had been charged with the article of the Criminal Code about the overthrow of the system precisely because of this publication.

As for the investigation, according to our legislation, if the inquiry does not end within three months [of detainee spending] in custody, the investigator is obliged to appeal to the court for its extension ten days before the end of the arrest. The term of detention of Bobomurod ends on 31 December 2017. According to Bobomurod, I know that he was not taken to court. It could mean either that the court extended the term of his detention without his participation (which is illegal) or the investigator believes that the case can be completed before 31 December of this year. Then before this date, it is required to declare the preliminary investigation completed and provided Bobomurod with materials for review. The period of familiarisation is not included in the period of detention. That is, if the investigation is completed by 31 December, there is no need to extend the deadline.

I do not know when the trial begins. If the investigator keeps within 31 December, then [the trial would be] probably in the second half of January 2018, if not, he would extend both the term of detention and the term of the preliminary investigation, possibly for another two months.

Fergana News Agency