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Uzbekistan22 December 2003

Journalist Ruslan Sharipov to remain jailed despite general amnesty

Jailed journalist Ruslan Sharipov will not be included in a general amnesty announced by President Islam Karimov on 1 December because his crime is too grave, Prisons chief Mikhail Gurevich said on 22 December. The journalist, press freedom and human rights campaigner has been imprisoned since 26 May 2003. He was awarded the 2004 Golden Pen of Freedom prize by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) on 25 November for "his courageous resistance to attacks, torture and constant harassment under President Islam Karimov’s repressive regime."

"Reporters Without Borders considers that the accusations against Sharipov have only one aim: to silence a dissenting voice. In refusing to amnesty him, the Uzbek authorities show yet again their total contempt for freedom of expression," said Robert Ménard, secretary general of the international press freedom organisation. "When Sharipov sought to defend his colleagues and condemn censorship, the authorities did everything possible to gag him, they were prepared to imprison and torture him psychologically and physically. Ruslan Sharipov is the symbol of oppression that journalists in Uzbekistan are suffering today," he added.

Sharipov was condemned on appeal on 25 September to four years in jail for homosexuality (Article 120) and having sexual relations with a minor (Article 128). A former president of the Union of Journalists of Uzbekistan (UIJU) and correspondent for the Russian news agency Prima, the 25-year-old journalist was arrested on 26 May.

On 8 August, he pleaded guilty under duress, asked forgiveness of President Karimov for all the articles in which he criticised the authorities and waived the defence of his lawyer. He sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan on 5 September in which he explained he had been forced to plead guilty after suffering physical and psychological torture.

Sharipov, who has never denied he is bisexual, says that he does not know the alleged victims. They were questioned on 26 May and kept in detention for three or four days. According to Sharipov’s defence, the young people were beaten and threatened by police to induce them to appear in court. In fact, the trial had to be adjourned several times because of their absence.

For several years, Sharipov has been the target of harassment of various kinds to force him to give up his work as a human rights defender and to prevent him criticising the authorities in his articles.




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