Journalist Aziz Yusupov arrested in Uzbekistan before OSCE conference on human rights
SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 / 10:25 AM
AKIPRESS.COM - The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) condemned the arrest of human rights activist and journalist Aziz Yusupov in Uzbekistan.
Yusupov's arrest came just before the Human Dimension Conference in Warsaw, which is organised by the Polish OSCE Chairmanship with support from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) this week and the next, and appeared to be aimed at preventing him from attending this major human rights event, the organizations' statement says.
"Aziz Yusupov’s arrest calls into question the Uzbekistani government’s assurances about the progress of successful human rights reforms in the country," Director of IPHR Brigitte Dufour said.
According to the information of human rights organizations, Yusupov was detained after being summoned to the police station in Ferghana in eastern Uzbekistan on 25 September 2022 after the authorities learned that he was applying for a Polish visa in order to travel to the Human Dimension Conference. At this conference, which gathers representatives of governments, international organisations and civil society, he intended to present independent information about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, the IPHR says.
Yusupov had submitted a visa application at the Polish embassy on 23 September, using an invitation issued to him by the OIDHR. Two days after his detention, on 27 September 2022, Ferghana Criminal Court sanctioned his pre-trial detention for three months on charges of the possession of drugs, an offense which is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment under Article 276.1 of the Criminal Code.
Yusupov denies the charges. Human rights organizations which issued statements about the situation believe that they were fabricated in order to penalise him for his human rights activities.
"Yusupov’s case shows that the Uzbekistani authorities have renewed the practice of using trumped-up charges against human rights defenders. Once again, we see human rights defenders being accused of crimes in criminal cases aimed at discrediting them and obstructing their legitimate work," Secretary General of NHC Berit Lindeman noted.
According to AHRCA, Aziz Yusupov has recently been involved in monitoring the situation of prisoners in Uzbekistan, especially vulnerable groups such as women and children, and providing assistance to them. In the past year alone, Aziz Yusupov has conducted 20 interviews amongst prisoners and former prisoners including those serving sentences on politically motivated grounds and victims of torture.
Yusupov’s family moved to Uzbekistan from Tajikistan in the 1990s after the civil war broke out in Tajikistan. He is the brother of independent journalist Farrukh Yusupov (Yusufiy), who has worked for many years with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and repeatedly has criticised the authorities in Uzbekistan. Yusufiy also participated in investigations of corrupt business companies controlled by the daughter of the former Uzbekistani president, Gulnara Karimova.
In 2016 Aziz Yusupov was arrested and unfairly sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. Then the human rights organizations stated that Yusupov was tortured in detention and the only evidence against him was his written admission of guilt, which he signed under pressure.
Aziz Yusupov was widely recognized as a political prisoner by human rights groups. Following international pressure, he was released from prison on parole early in February 2019 due to poor health. He had to follow several courses of medical treatment after release.
The authorities of Uzbekistan did nor provide comments on Yusupov's arrest.