November 20, 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
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) appeals to you to release our colleague Shodi Mardiev on humanitarian grounds. We wrote to you on January 12, 2000, with a similar request. Since that time, Mardiev’s health has deteriorated even further.
On June 11, 1998, a Samarkand court sentenced Mardiev, a reporter with the local state-run radio station, to an 11-year prison term for defamation and extortion. Though his sentence was later cut in half under Your Excellency’s decrees of April 30, 1999, and August 28, 2000, Mardiev still has approximately three years left to serve. Given his increasingly poor health, he may die in prison if he is forced to serve his remaining sentence.
Mardiev is being held in Penal Colony 64/47 in the town of Kizil-tepa in the Navoi region. Local human rights groups say many political prisoners are sent to this particular correctional facility. Prisoners are allowed only one visit every three months, and may receive only one package every four months from outside the prison. The prison is also notorious for its poor-quality medical facilities and food services.
Mardiev’s physical and mental health has suffered as a result of these poor conditions. Shortly after his arrest in November 1997, the journalist suffered two brain hemorrhages while in a pre-trial detention center. He was hospitalized twice last year for a heart condition, and is not receiving the medical attention he so urgently needs.
As an independent organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is particularly concerned about Mardiev’s incarceration because of the questionable legality of his conviction. The government’s case arose from a June 19, 1997 broadcast in which Mardiev satirized the alleged corruption of Samarkand deputy prosecutor Talat Abdukhalikzade. Following the broadcast, Abdukhalikzade accused Mardiev of defamation and extortion, although he provided the court with little evidence to support these allegations.
CPJ believes that the charges were a mere pretext to silence Mardiev, who was known for his public criticism of government officials, both on the radio and in the journal Mushtum.
We urge you to use your good offices to see that Mardiev is released on humanitarian grounds. Such a gesture would be viewed both as a compassionate act and as a demonstration of your government’s intent to comply with international press-freedom standards.
In addition, we urge your government to amend the criminal code so that no journalist in your country will face a prison term for his or her work. CPJ firmly believes that public officials should not use criminal defamation laws to shield themselves from criticism. No journalist should ever be jailed for his or her work.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper