The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based independent organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, is concerned that Uzbek authorities have failed to meet their commitment to review the case of Ruslan Sharipov, an independent journalist and human rights activist. He is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for sodomy and having sexual relations with minors.
The Uzbek Foreign Ministry promised in March to review Sharipov’s case and said that he could be freed on June 11 under a presidential amnesty. On June 12, administrators at the low-security prison in Tashkent Region where Sharipov was transferred in May announced in front of demonstrators gathered to support the journalist that it might take another month to assemble a commission to review the journalist’s case, the Associated Press reported. Sharipov has been allowed to leave the prison at night and sleep at a relative’s house nearby.
In August 2003, Sharipov was convicted of sodomy, having sex with minors, and managing prostitutes–all criminal offenses under Uzbek law. According to international press reports, Sharipov, who is openly gay, denied having sexual relations with minors and managing prostitutes, saying that authorities had threatened him with torture to get a confession.
The police and the security service have threatened and harassed Sharipov for several years because of critical articles he wrote for the Russian news agency Prima and for the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan’s Web site, describing police abuses and press freedom violations. Many of Sharipov’s articles were published on the Internet in English, making them more accessible to an international audience than articles written by other Uzbek journalists and human rights activists.
Sharipov’s sentence was reduced from five and a half years to four years on Sept. 25, 2003, and on March 13, 2004, he was moved from Tavaksay Prison in Tashkent Region to a low-security prison near Kibray District, also in Tashkent Region.
We believe Sharipov should be released immediately, and we urge you to do everything within your power to facilitate his immediate and complete release and to punish the authorities responsible for torturing him during his time in prison.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.