Yakubov, 22, was detained in the capital, Tashkent, on suspicions of religious extremism, according to local and international press reports. Three days later, he was criminally charged with “undermining the constitutional order,” Alisher Sharafutdinov, deputy minister of the interior, announced at a press conference in the capital.
The formal charge was based on Yakubov’s alleged religious activities. The government did not describe those purported actions in detail, but local reports cited Yakubov’s alleged participation in an illegal Islamic organization.
Yakubov’s colleagues said the charge was politicized and he was being punished for writing about Islam and advocating democratic reforms, according to press reports. He had recently visited the holy city of Mecca and published a series of articles about his pilgrimage, titled “A Journey to Dreamland,” local reports said.
Yakubov’s colleagues speculated that authorities might also have targeted him for a March article about slain Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze. In the article, Yakubov said Gongazde’s death “became a driving force [for Ukrainians] to realize the necessity of democratic reforms and freedom.” According to some of Yakubov’s colleagues, Uzbek authorities might have interpreted that as a call for a governmental change, local reports said.
The Tashkent-based news Web site Uznews reported that Yakubov called the Hurriyat newsroom on April 11 to inform his colleagues of his detention, but for four days police denied holding him.
Shukhrat Soipov, a lawyer representing Yakubov, said in September that the journalist was being held in the main Tashkent police prison and that prosecutors were investigating, the Tashkent-based Ozod Ovod press freedom group reported. Soipov said prison officials would not allow the journalist’s family to visit Yakubov in prison.