Moscow police on August 1, 2017 arrested Khudoberdi Nurmatov, a contributor to the independent Russian daily newspaper Novaya Gazeta better known by his pen name, Ali Feruz, near his employer’s Moscow office on immigration charges, according to media reports.
The same day, Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ruled that the journalist had violated Russian immigration laws and ordered his deportation.
After the ruling was pronounced, the journalist grabbed a pen from his lawyer, and attempted to pierce his neck artery in an apparent suicide attempt before being handcuffed by guards, according to Novaya Gazeta and media reports.
Novaya Gazeta reported that bailiffs beat, insulted, and shocked Nurmatov while they brought him to a detention center for foreign nationals in a Moscow suburb.
The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, who visited Nurmatov in the detention center on August 5, 2017, reported that the journalist had bruises on his back, was unable to eat for three days, and has suffered from hypertension since the beating.
Nurmatov, 30, fled Uzbekistan in 2008, after Uzbek security services allegedly tried to force him to work as an informant by torturing him and threatening to harm his family, and eventually arrived in Russia in 2011 via Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, according to media reports.
He began contributing to Novaya Gazeta in 2014, when he reported on the abduction of an Uzbek migrant from downtown Moscow.
In 2015, Nurmatov applied for the first time for refugee status in Russia on the grounds that he risked torture relating to both his work and sexual orientation if he returned to Uzbekistan, and was denied. The journalist unsuccessfully applied for residency through various other programs, and was denied each time. (Nurmatov’s mother and siblings are all Russian citizens and reside in the country.)
At the time of Nurmatov’s arrest, the journalist’s appeal of a March 2017 rejection of his political asylum application was still pending, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said the journalist is at risk of torture in Uzbekistan if Russia deports him.
Nurmatov has regularly contributed to Novaya Gazeta since 2016, reporting on such sensitive subjects as the plight of Central Asian migrant workers in Russia and the December 2016 presidential election in Uzbekistan.
On August 4, according to human rights groups and media reports, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a preliminary injunction ordering Russia not to deport the journalist until the court reviews his case.
In contradiction to the ECHR decision, Moscow’s Basmanny district court on October 20, 2017, ruled that immigration officials were correct to refuse Nurmatov asylum because the defendant failed to prove he faced danger in Uzbekistan, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Nurmatov is being held in a specialized pretrial detention center for foreign nationals near Moscow and is to remain there until the ECHR issues a final decision about his case, Novaya Gazeta reported.