Uzbekistan8 November 2006
Welcome for release of Ulugbek Khaidarov but other journalists remain in prison
The pro-opposition journalist who had been sentenced to six years by a court in Jizak, central Uzbekistan, just over a month earlier was set free on 7 November just after his appeal hearing, to have been held on that day was adjourned by the judge, Makhmud Kuldachev, for personal reasons.
Later in the day, the judge contacted the journalist’s family to tell them that he had made a ruling at his home and concluded that Khaidarov was innocent. He was released soon afterwards and has been able to visit his family in Andijan.
“This release was unexpected and we can only welcome this news and share the relief of Khaidarov and his family,” the organisation said. “However we do not forget the brutal repression suffered by journalists in Uzbekistan and that injustice is the rule which is most respected by the government of Islam Karimov. The very circumstances of the release of Ulugbek Khaidarov, outside all legal framework, drives it home yet again. Finally, we hope that the release of Ulugbek Khaidarov is not a diplomatic and opportunist move, given that Council of Europe sanctions against Uzbekistan, passed after the bloody crackdown againts demonstrators in Andijan in May 2005, are shortly to be reviewed”, it added.
“In particular we condemn the fact that the president’s nephew, Jamshid Karimov, an independent journalist and colleague of Khaidarov’s, was placed in a psychiatric hospital by the Uzbek authorities after his disappearance on 12 September. No-one has been able to visit him, no medical reason has been cited and he is set to remain in hospital for at least another five months. These methods recall the dark days of the Soviet era, in which dissidents were often brought to heel by being sent to mental hospitals.”
Police arrested Khaidarov on 14 September 2006 after a woman slipped some money into his pocket as he waited for a bus. They pounced just a few seconds later but not before he had thrown the money on the ground. Since then he has been held in prison in Jizak.
Uzbekistan is ranked 158th in the worldwide press freedom index for 2006.