Journalist Aziz Yusupov arrested in Uzbekistan ahead of OSCE human rights conference

Journalist Aziz Yusupov arrested in Uzbekistan ahead of OSCE human rights conference

AKIPRESS.COM – The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR), the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Committee Norwegian Helsinki (NHC) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) have 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 organized by the Polish Chairmanship of the OSCE with the support of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE this week and next, and appeared to be aimed at preventing him from attending this major human rights event, the organization’s statement said.

“Aziz Yusupov’s arrest calls into question the assurances of the Uzbek government that it is advancing successful human rights reforms in the country,” said IPHR Director Brigitte Dufour.

According to information from human rights organizations, Yusupov was arrested after being summoned to the police station in Ferghana, eastern Uzbekistan, on September 25, 2022, after authorities learned that he was asking a Polish visa to attend the Human Dimension Conference. During this conference, which brings together representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society, he intended to present independent information on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, indicates the IPHR.

Yusupov had applied for a visa at the Polish Embassy on September 23, using an invitation issued to him by OIDHR. Two days after his detention, on September 27, 2022, the criminal court in Ferghana sanctioned his pre-trial detention for three months for possession of drugs, an offense punishable by imprisonment of up to five years under the 276.1 of the Penal Code. .

Yusupov denies the charges. Human rights organizations that have issued statements on the situation believe that they were fabricated in order to penalize him for his human rights activities.

“Yusupov’s case shows that the Uzbek authorities have renewed the practice of using false charges against human rights defenders. Once again, we see human rights defenders being accused of crimes in criminal cases aimed at discrediting them and impeding their legitimate work,” NHC Secretary General Berit Lindeman noted.

According to the 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 them with assistance. In the past year alone, Aziz Yusupov has conducted 20 interviews with prisoners and former prisoners, including those serving politically motivated sentences and victims of torture.

Yusupov’s family moved to Uzbekistan from Tajikistan in the 1990s after the outbreak of civil war in Tajikistan. He is the brother of freelance journalist Farrukh Yusupov (Yusufiy), who worked for many years with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and repeatedly criticized the Uzbek authorities. Yusufiy also took part in investigations into corrupt business companies controlled by the former Uzbek president’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

In 2016 Aziz Yusupov was arrested and wrongfully sentenced to eight years in prison. Then human rights organizations said that Yusupov had been tortured in detention and that 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 in early February 2019 due to health issues. He had to undergo several medical treatments after his release.

Uzbek authorities have not commented on Yusupov’s arrest.

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