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Uzbekistan27 June 2008

Detained journalist prevented from seeing his lawyer

Uznews correspondent Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov’s brother Bakhrom Abdurakhmanov, who is acting as his lawyer, was unable to visit him on 25 June in the detention centre in Nukus, the capital of the western autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, where he has been held on a trumped-up drugs charge for the past three weeks.

An official at the prison told him: “The directors are absent, and there is no one here who can decide whether or not we can let you see him.”

Bakhrom Abdurakhmanov said: “The detention centre’s authorities are guilty of a gross violation of article 53.2 of Uzbekistan’s criminal code, which says that if a suspect is detained, his lawyer has the right to talk to him in private as many times and for as long as he wants.”

The Uznews correspondent for Karakalpakstan, Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov is being held on a charge of possessing and using drugs, which he denies. He has often written about the Aral Sea environmental catastrophe’s impact on the population and public health, and Uznews regards him as “Karakalpakstan’s only independent journalist.”

11.06 - Journalist arrested on trumped-up drug charge in western region

Reporters Without Borders has just learned that journalist and human rights activist Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov is being held in the western autonomous region of Karakalpakstan on a drug possession charge which fellow journalists believe was trumped up.

A criminal court in the regional capital of Nukus ordered him placed in pre-trial detention today but the exact date of his arrest is not yet known. According to an unconfirmed report, he was arrested on 7 June, two days before the start of a government-run seminar in Tashkent on press freedom.

“We condemn Abdurakhmanov’s arrest just as the authorities were organising a conference on media freedom in Tashkent,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is proof of the cynicism of a government that continues to jail journalists and human rights activists. As in previous cases, the drug charge seems to be just a pretext for portraying a prisoner of conscience as an ordinary detainee.”

The regional director of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Karakalpakstan, Abdurakhmanov is also a reporter for independent news websites. His colleagues suspect that the drug possession charge was fabricated and the real reason for his arrest was his journalistic activities.

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