Mardiev, a 63-year-old reporter with the state-run Samarkand Radio, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The journalist, who is known for his criticism of government officials and for his satirical writings in the journal Mushtum, was found guilty of slandering an official in a program satirizing the alleged corruption of the Samarkand deputy prosecutor, and of attempting to extort money from him.
CPJ believes the prosecution and prison term were in reprisal for the journalist’s critical stance toward government officials. His sentence was later cut in half under President Islam Karimov’s decrees of April 30, 1999, and August 28, 2000.
Mardiev was held in Penal Colony 64/47 in the town of Kizil-tepa in the Navoi Region. Local human rights groups say many political prisoners are sent to this particular correctional facility. Prisoners are allowed only one visit every three months and may receive only one package every four months from outside the prison. The prison is also notorious for its poor medical facilities and food services.
Mardiev’s physical and mental health deteriorated as a result of these poor conditions. Shortly after his arrest in November 1997, the journalist suffered two cerebral hemorrhages while in a pretrial detention center. He was hospitalized twice last year for a heart condition and did not receive the medical attention he urgently needed.
On January 5, 2002, Mardiev was released under an August 22, 2001, presidential amnesty marking the 10th anniversary of the country’s independence from the former Soviet republic. Human rights advocates in the capital, Tashkent, say an estimated 18,000 ordinary prisoners were released under the decree, along with 700 religious and political detainees. Mardiev was eligible for early release because he is over 60 and had already served a portion of his sentence.