Ruzimuradov, a reporter for the opposition newspaper Erk, is the longest-imprisoned journalist in the world, according to CPJ research.
The reporter and Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk’s chief editor, were jailed on politicized anti-state charges after they were forcibly returned to the country from Ukraine in 1999.
In September 1999, a Tashkent court convicted the two of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest and attempting to overthrow the regime. Bekjanov was sentenced to 14 years in prison and Ruzimuradov was sentenced to 15 years.
The journalists were beaten before their trial began, according to CPJ sources and news reports. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were jailed in penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.
In a September 2014 report on political prisoners in Uzbekistan, the international organization Human Rights Watch said Ruzimuradov was being held in Tavaksay prison colony outside Tashkent. Human Rights Watch said that Ruzimuradov was due to be released in May 2014, but that authorities extended his sentence for an undisclosed period because of unspecified violations of prison rules.
According to a petition published on the online platform Avaaz in December 2014, and to an interview that Dilorom Iskhakova, a member of the opposition party Erk, gave to RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, authorities sentenced Ruzimuradov to an additional three years. Iskhakova said Ruzimuradov’s health had deteriorated and he had acute tuberculosis and hypertension.
Bekjanov and Ruzimuradov were detained in Ukraine, where they had been publishing Erk, the official newspaper of the opposition political party by the same name, in exile. They were extradited at the request of Uzbek authorities.
Bekjanov’s brother is Muhammad Salih, the leader of the political party Erk (Liberty) and a 1991 presidential candidate in Uzbekistan. Salih, who has lived in exile since 1993, was sentenced in absentia to prison on anti-state charges in 1999.
On January 23, 2017, CPJ wrote an open letter to Uzbekistan’s new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev urging him to release journalists, including Ruzimuradov.
Bekjanov was released on February 22, 2017. He told CPJ in September that he had made many attempts, but failed to find any information about the fate of Ruzimuradov.
CPJ has been in touch with several Uzbek activists and human rights defenders but could not determine Ruzimuradov’s status or whereabouts in late 2017.