In Uzbekistan, journalist’s trial resumes without notice

New York, April 30, 2007—Authorities in Uzbekistan today resumed without notice the trial of independent journalist Umida Niyazova in Serelisky District Court in the capital, Tashkent. The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces the failure to give notice to Niyazova’s counsel and family, which reflects an ongoing disregard for justice in the case.

Niyazova, who reported on human rights and other issues for a number of international Web sites, is being held on charges of smuggling subversive material and distributing material that threatens national security. Her trial had been adjourned indefinitely on April 19.

Niyazova’s family told the independent news Web site Uznews that they were informed of today’s court session only this morning. Andrea Berg, head of the Human Rights Watch office in Tashkent, told CPJ that she, too, learned of the trial’s resumption only this morning, leaving her able to observe the afternoon session only. The journalist’s lawyer, Tatiana Davidova, was also informed of the resumption only this morning, Berg told CPJ.

Although today’s session was supposed to be open to the public, journalists were not permitted inside the courtroom, Berg told CPJ.

“We’re outraged at the continued disregard for fairness and justice in the trial of our colleague, Umida Niyazova, and call on the Uzbek authorities to dismiss all the charges against her,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

Niyazova, in custody since her arrest on January 22, has pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally crossing the Kyrgyzstan border. But she has denied smuggling subversive literature and distributing materials that threaten national security with the use of foreign financial aid. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison, according to CPJ sources in the region.

Niyazova covered politics and human rights in Uzbekistan for the Central Asia news Web site Oasis, a project of the Moscow-based media watchdog Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. She has also contributed reporting to Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and Internews Network, according to CPJ sources.

She is among six journalists jailed in Uzbekistan today. Press freedom in Uzbekistan has has sharply deteriorated since President Islam Karimov expelled independent journalists affiliated with foreign-funded media in the aftermath of the bloody crackdown in Andijan in May 2005.