Abdurakhmanov, a reporter for the now defunct independent news website Uznews, was imprisoned in June 2008 after traffic police in Nukus, in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, said they found 114 grams of marijuana and less than five grams of opium during a search of his car, Uznews reported at the time. The journalist denied possessing narcotics and said the police had planted them in retaliation for his reporting on corruption, according to news reports.
Abdurakhmanov had reported on corruption in regional law enforcement agencies, including the traffic police, for Uznews. The website closed in December 2014. Abdurakhmanov also contributed to the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Abdurakhmanov’s prosecution and trial were marred by irregularities, defense lawyer Rustam Tulyaganov told CPJ at the time. Investigators failed to maintain chain of custody for the seized drugs, and they did not collect fingerprints or other evidence that could have proved the journalist had handled the material, Tulyaganov said.
Police questioned Abdurakhmanov extensively, focusing on his journalism, and searched his home and confiscated his computer, according to his lawyer and news reports.
According to Uznews, authorities offered Abdurakhmanov a deal: give up journalism and human rights activism in exchange for amnesty and release. The journalist refused.
In October 2008, a court in Nukus sentenced Abdurakhmanov to 10 years in prison. Higher courts denied his appeals.
In September 2011, authorities denied Abdurakhmanov’s application for amnesty, citing alleged violations of penal colony rules, according to CPJ research. Uznews reported in November 2012 that prison authorities obstructed the International Committee of the Red Cross when it tried to speak with Abdurakhmanov in prison. Abdurakhmanov’s son told Uznews that prison officials presented Red Cross staff with another detainee who claimed to be the journalist.
At least three times in 2013, authorities transferred Abdurakhmanov from a penal colony in the southern city of Karshi to a prison hospital outside the capital, Tashkent, to receive treatment for a stomach ulcer. In October 2013, after the journalist’s family told Uznews about his deteriorating health, authorities placed Abdurakhmanov in solitary confinement for two weeks and prevented his family from seeing him.
Based on findings by CPJ and other groups, lawyers with the Washington-based advocacy group Freedom Now filed a complaint in March 2012 with the U.N. Human Rights Committee, contesting Abdurakhmanov’s imprisonment and calling for his release.
Abdurakhmanov was awarded the German Palm Foundation’s press freedom award in 2014. According to news reports, Uzbek authorities barred the journalist’s family from attending the ceremony in Schorndorf in November 2014 on his behalf. At the ceremony, the German Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Strässer, publicly urged Uzbek authorities to release Abdurakhmanov.
In May 2014, Abdurakhmanov’s family publicly asked Uzbek President Islam Karimov to pardon the journalist based on his deteriorating health, Uznews reported. They did not receive a response.
On October 14, 2016, the journalist’s former employer Uznews, operating under the new name Centre1, reported that he “is gravely ill” and suffers from stomach and intestinal ulcers.