Bobomurod Abdullaev

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Bobomurod Abdullaev, a freelance journalist who contributed to the independent regional news website Fergana and other media outlets, went missing on September 27, 2017, and secretly appeared before a judge on October 1, 2017 in a criminal court in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, according to Fergana.

Authorities charged Abdullaev with “attacking the constitutional order” of Uzbekistan for writing critical articles on various platforms, including social media, under the pseudonym Usman Khaknazarov, according to an article from October 5, 2017 by the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service, which is known locally as Ozodlik.

In late 2017 he was in custody of Uzbekistan’s national security service (SNB), according to Fergana, which said he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Abdullaev had for years worked as a freelancer for Ozodlik, the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, as well as Fergana. He also founded an independent news website, Ozod Ovoz (Free Voice), which Uzbek authorities shut down following the May 2005 crackdown on antigovernment protesters in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan.

Abdullaev was one of the few independent journalists who did not flee Uzbekistan following the May 2005 Andijan events, and he continued to openly criticize the Uzbek government in YouTube videos, his interviews with Ozodlik, and other media outlets.

On September 29, 2017, his wife, Katya Balkhiboyeva, told media that her husband at noon on September 27 left their house in Tashkent to take his car to a local repair shop and never returned.

Balkhiboyeva filed a missing person report with local police on September 29. A few hours after she filed the report, police raided the journalist’s apartment, Abdullaev’s wife told the BBC Uzbek service.

During the BBC interview, which took place as police were raiding the apartment, Balkhiboyeva said police refused to inform her about her husband’s whereabouts or any charges against him.

Nadezhda Atayeva, who heads the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia from exile in France, wrote on her Facebook page that Abdullaev complained about being followed before his September 27 disappearance.

Abdullayev’s mother, Gavkharjon, told CPJ on October 30, 2017, that her son had been held incommunicado since his detention. She said that neither the journalist’s family nor his state-appointed attorney were able to get a permission from the authorities to see him.