Journalist released after year in jail for anti-constitutional activity

New York, April 4, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release by an Uzbek court of journalist Sobirdjon Yakubov who spent one year in jail on subversion charges. A court in the capital Tashkent freed Yakubov, a reporter for the state-run weekly newspaper Hurriyat (Liberty), on Monday for lack of evidence against him, the independent Central Asia news Web site reported today.

“We are relieved that our colleague Sobirdjon Yakubov is free,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “But we are appalled that he spent a year behind bars without knowing on what evidence the authorities had based these serious charges.”

Yakubov was detained on April 11, 2005, on suspicion of religious extremism and participation in an illegal Islamic organization, and criminally charged three days later with “undermining the constitutional order of Uzbekistan” under Article 159 of the penal code, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, according to local and international press reports.

Yakubov’s colleagues said the charges against him were politicized and he was being punished for writing about Islam and advocating democratic reforms, according to press reports

Yakubov is the second journalist writing for Hurriyat who has been arrested on charges of anti-constitutional activity in the past three years. Gayrat Mehliboyev, a freelancer, was arrested in February 2003, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in prison for an April 2001 article published in Hurriyat that questioned the compatibility of Islam and democracy. He is still in jail.