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Uzbekistan19 November 2008

Supreme Court in autonomous republic upholds journalist’s ten year sentence

Reporters Without Borders reacted with dismay today as the supreme court in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan in the west of the country upheld a ten-year jail sentence for drug-trafficking against journalist and human rights activist Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov.

The court in the capital Noukous passed sentence without taking into account defence argument that the authorities targeted him because of his critical reports nor did it justify its decision, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Abdurakhmanov was arrested on 7 June 2008 and has been in custody since. He was initially accused of “drug use with no intention of selling” but it was later changed to “drug-trafficking”. He has always denied the charges.

During the nearly five-hour appeal hearing for Abdourakhmanov, who works for a number of NGOs and independent media, judges failed to take into account defence submissions including from the journalist’s brother, the lawyer Bahrom Abdurakhmanov.

He pointed out troubling aspects to the case that proved the arrest was planned in advance and the authorities were determined to punish a critical journalist.

These included the fact that the journalist’s vehicle, in which drugs were allegedly found, had been in the garage for repair until the day of his arrest. When he went to fetch it he noticed the window had been opened and matches then used to hold it in place. However investigators never took any interest in this anomaly.

Neither did they put any questions about the origin of the drugs or Abdurakhmanov’s supposed clients. On the other hand, they spent a long time questioning him about his activities, seized files from his computer and documents from his home and office.

“This decision shows that, just as we feared, Uzbekistan is not committed to improving the state of human rights and press freedom. Court proceedings and punishment are being used against independent voices who have the courage to report on the real state of affairs”, Reporters Without Borders said.

“However, Solidzhon Abdourakhmanov does have a final right of appeal and we hope it will be heard when the Uzbek supreme court rules on the case. We urge the authorities to distance themselves from the courts in Karakalpakstan and logically to acquit Solidzhon Abdourakhmanov”, the organisation added.

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