Uzbekistan: Jailed reporter's health worsens

January 12, 2000 12:00 PM ET

January 12, 2000

His Excellency Islam Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
43 Uzbekistanskaya Street
Tashkent, Uzbekistan 700163
Fax: 011- 998-71-139-55-25; 139-55-10

Your Excellency:

On behalf of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, I extend my greetings for the New Year.

I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the deteriorating health of Shadi Mardiev, a 63-year-old reporter with the state-run Samarkand radio station, who was sentenced on June 11, 1998 to an 11-year prison term for defamation and extortion. Shortly after his arrest in November 1997, Mardiev suffered two brain hemorrhages while in a pre-trial detention center. Although his physical and mental health have continued to deteriorate in the 18 months since his conviction, he has not been getting the medical attention he needs at the prison's medical center. Mardiev was hospitalized twice last year for a heart condition, but was soon returned to his jail cell where poor conditions jeopardize his chances of recovery.

Mardiev's plight also concerns CPJ because of the circumstances under which he was convicted. As you are probably aware, the suit against him stemmed from a June 19, 1997 broadcast that Mardiev produced for state radio in Samarkand, satirizing the alleged corruption of Samarkand deputy prosecutor Talat Abdulkhalikzada.

Following the broadcast, Abdulkhalikzada accused Mardiev of defamation. According to Mardiev's lawyer, Abdulkhalikzada alleged that Mardiev had used the threat of the impending broadcast to attempt to extort money from him, although he provided the court with little evidence to support this allegation. CPJ believes the prosecution and prison term may have been used to silence Mardiev, who was known for his critical stance toward government officials and for his satirical writings in the journal Mushtum.

According to our research, Mardiev is one of only four journalists currently in prison in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Uzbekistan's imprisonment of Mardiev in reprisal for his work as a journalist violates the international press freedom standards that your government claims to uphold, and serves to isolate Uzbekistan from the international community.

We urge you to use your good offices to see that Mardiev is released on humanitarian grounds and that charges against him are dropped. At a minimum, we request Your Excellency to ensure that Mardiev's case is again reviewed by the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan in an open and thorough trial, and also ensure that the judicial process takes his poor health into account. Such an initiative would certainly be viewed positively by the international community, which values freedom of the press as one of the pillars of a democratic society.

Thank you for your attention. We await your response.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director



Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Uzbekistan

Send a letter to:

His Excellency Islam Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
43 Uzbekistanskaya Street
Tashkent, Uzbekistan 700163
Fax: 011- 998-71-139-55-25; 139-55-10

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