Dilmurod Saiid is serving a 12-and-a-half-year prison term at a high-security prison colony outside Navoi in southwestern Uzbekistan where he was beaten and placed under psychological pressure, according to news reports and his lawyer.
In 2013, Saiid was denied adequate medical treatment for tuberculosis he contracted in jail, reports said.
On October 14, 2016, the independent regional news website Centre1 (formerly Uznews) reported that the journalist suffers from acute tuberculosis and cited a letter Saiid sent from prison in 2013 in which he wrote that he did not expect to survive the prison term.
The journalist was arrested in his hometown, Tashkent, and placed in detention in Samarkand after a woman accused him of extorting US$10,000 from a businessman. Although the woman withdrew her accusation, saying she had been coerced, authorities refused to release the journalist, Saiid’s lawyer, Ruhiddin Komilov, told CPJ at the time.
In March 2009, regional authorities announced that new witnesses had come forward to accuse Saiid of extortion. Authorities said that several farmers had accused him of using their signatures to create fraudulent court papers.
Saiid was charged with extortion and forgery. CPJ, along with several other international human rights and press freedom groups, determined the charges were fabricated in retaliation for his journalism. Before his arrest, Saiid reported on official abuses against farmers for the independent regional news website Voice of Freedom as well as for a number of local publications.
At Saiid’s trial, the farmers told the court they had been pressured by prosecutors to testify against Saiid, Ferghana News reported. Their statements were ignored in what was one of several irregularities reported during the proceedings. Komilov said that authorities failed to notify him of a number of important hearing dates. When a regional court convicted and sentenced Saiid in a closed-door hearing in July 2009, the journalist’s lawyer and family were not present.
In November 2009, the journalist’s wife and six-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on their way to visit him in prison, regional press reports said. Authorities rejected Saiid’s 2011 application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, Uznews reported.
Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a March 2012 complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Saiid’s imprisonment and calling for his release.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, after diplomatic communication between the Uzbek government and the U.N., concluded on November 23, 2012, that Saiid’s detention was arbitrary and called for his retrial and reparations. It referred the case to the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.
In a handwritten note in January 2013 that he passed via his brother, during a prison visit, to a local rights activist, Saiid revealed details of his conditions in jail and pleaded for help. Saiid did not explicitly detail how he had suffered, but hinted that Uzbek and international laws against torture had been violated during his imprisonment.
On April 1, 2016, Freedom Now, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that assists arbitrarily detained prisoners, wrote to the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to request that the office pressure the Uzbek government to unconditionally release the journalist and three other detainees.
On January 23, 2017, CPJ wrote a letter to Uzbekistan’s new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev urging him to release journalists, including Saiid. The presidential administration has not responded. Three journalists out of five imprisoned at the time of the letter have since been released. Saiid remains behind bars.
According to media reports, the human rights organization Ezgulik wrote to the Uzbek interior ministry earlier this year asking that the ministry grant Saiid parole for health reasons. The ministry’s department for executing sentences denied the request, and said tuberculosis was not a sufficient reason for an early release.