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Writer Mamadali Makhmudov reportedly returned to prison camp

(WiPC/IFEX) - Writer Mamadali Makhmudov, who is serving a fourteen year prison term, is said to have been returned from Tashkent prison medical centre back to a strict regime prison camp in Chirchik, despite his poor health.

According to WiPC's information, on 16 June 2001, Makhmudov was transferred from the Tashkent Prison medical centre, where he had been cared for since he was moved there around April, to the Chirchik "strict regime" prison. He had previously been held in Navoi prison. Makhmudov has heart disease and has suffered three heart attacks, the most recent in 1999.

Makhmudov was among six men sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison on 18 August 1999 for their alleged involvement in the Uzbek opposition movement. Their convictions were part of a wider clampdown against opposition figures following a series of bomb explosions in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, in February 1999. On 19 February, Mamadali Makhmudov was arrested at his home in Tashkent, three days after the bomb attacks on 16 February and subsequently charged under Uzbek Criminal Code Article 158 (threatening the president) and Article 159.3 (threatening the constitutional order). Makhmudov was sentenced to fourteen years in prison.

Makhmudov and his co-defendants are imprisoned because of their links to Muhammad Salih, "Erk"'s exiled leader, who is also a writer. Salih was the only candidate to stand against President Islam Karimov during presidential elections in 1991. "Erk" was banned in 1993, and Salih fled into exile in 1994.

The trial against Makhmudov and his co-defendants started on 3 August 1999 at the Yangiyul District Court in Tashkent. Both local and international observers were barred from the trial. However, one of the defendants was able to pass on his court testimony to a Human Rights Watch representative that included Makhmudov's torture testimony. In it he claims to have been forced to confess while he was being interrogated during his three-month incommunicado detention: "in the basement, they regularly beat me, they burned my legs and arms. They put a [mask] on me and cut off the air...[and] hung me up by my hands, which they tied behind my neck. . They told me they were holding my wife and daughters and threatened to rape them in front of my eyes." Human Rights Watch reports that the other defendants' wives were also threatened with rape, and claimed to have been severely beaten, suffocated and given electric shocks while in incommunicado detention.

The evidence against the defendants appears to rest on their possession and distribution of the "Erk" newspaper banned since 1993. The prosecutor claimed that the newspaper contained articles threatening to the president. Other charges relate to the defendants' alleged involvement in "Erk" or its distribution.

In July 2000, following international appeals, Makhmudov was transferred to a prison hospital where he is said to have received surgery. In January, he was transferred to the Navoi Strict Regime Prison Camp, spurring more international protests. He was then moved to the Tashkent Prison medical centre, where concerns for his health remained acute. He wrote from the medical centre "I need to restore my health, I want to return to my children alive. I am writing not because I am afraid of death (despite the horrible torture I have endured). I am writing this, hoping that if I die, I will die near my children."

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:
- expressing alarm over the disregard of repeated appeals for Makhmudov's release
- asking that, at very least, he be provided with adequate medical attention
- calling for the writer's immediate and unconditional release

Appeals To

President Islam Abduganievch Karimov
70000 g. Tashkent, pr. Uzbekistansky
Rezidentsiya prezidenta
Fax: +998 71 139 5625
E-mail: [email protected]

Copies to:

Ms. Sayora Rashidova
Commissioner for Human Rights
700008 g. Tashkent, pl. Mustqkillik, 2, Oliy Majlis Respubliki Uzbekistan
Fax: +998 71 139 8555
E-mail: [email protected]

Mr Ubaydulla Mingbayev
Chairman of the Supreme Court of Republic of Uzbekistan
700183 g. Tashkent, ul. Abdualla odiri, 1 Verkhovny sud Respubliki
Fax: +998 71 141 0028

Also send copies to:
- The Uzbek representative in your country
- The Central Asia Desk officer at your own government's Foreign Office
- Your country's official representative in Tashkent

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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