Imprisoned journalist transferred to house arrest

March 17, 2004, New York—Uzbek authorities have allowed imprisoned journalist Ruslan Sharipov, who has been jailed since May 2003, to complete his sentence under house arrest.

On Friday, March 12, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry announced that Sharipov would be moved from Tavaksay Prison in Tashkent Region to a low-security prison near Kibray District, also in Tashkent Region, according to local and international press reports.

According to a CPJ source in Tashkent, the transfer occurred on Saturday, March 13. However, the following day, Sharipov was allowed to move in with a relative in the area to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. The journalist is required to register with local authorities every morning.

Sharipov’s transfer came after an international campaign human rights and press freedom groups for his release. On Thursday, March 11, CPJ representatives met with a diplomat from the Uzbek Embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the imprisonment of Sharipov and four other Uzbek journalists in retaliation for criticizing Uzbek authorities.

CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Alex Lupis and CPJ Washington, D.C., Representative Frank Smyth met with First Secretary for Political Affairs Ismatulla Faizullaev on and called on the Uzbek government to immediately release Sharipov and repeal the politically motivated convictions of journalists Muhammad Bekjanov, Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Madzid Abduraimov and Gayrat Mehliboyev.

Under Uzbek law, Sharipov was eligible to serve the remainder of his sentence in an alternative facility.

“We are taking your concerns very seriously,” Faizullaev told CPJ in a telephone interview today. “Our government is ready to re-consider all cases on humanitarian grounds for potential pardons.”

The Uzbek authorities’ commitment to reconsider the cases of journalists imprisoned on politically motivated charges appears to reflect growing pressure from the U.S. government, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations to improve the country’s abysmal human rights record.

See list of journalists imprisoned in Uzbekistan.