Last edited: May 01, 2004

Gay Journalist Refused Amnesty, December 22, 2003

By Malcolm Thornberry, Newscenter, European Bureau Chief

Tashkent, Uzbekistan—A gay journalist imprisoned in Uzbekistan on what international human rights groups call “trumped up charges” has been declared ineligible for a wide-ranging amnesty declared by President Islam Karimov this month.

Ruslan Sharipov, a harsh critic of the Uzbek regime, was sentenced in September to four years in prison on charges of having homosexual sex—illegal in Uzbekistan under laws dating back to Soviet times—and of having sex with minors.

Mikhail Gurevich, the head of the Uzbek prison system said Sharipov could not be pardoned because his crime was “grave.”

Since his imprisonment Sharipov has claimed to have been tortured into making a false confession.

Human rights activist Surat Ikramov said the decision not to grant Sharipov a pardon was “unacceptable” and that the amnesty should apply because an appeals court had cleared Sharipov of the most serious of the three charges on which he was convicted.

The US had also pushed for Sharipov to be pardoned. The Bush administration has dramatically increased its involvement with Uzbekistan after deploying troops in Uzbekistan to back up military operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

The former Soviet republic has long been criticized by human rights organizations for its poor human rights record, including putting more than 6,000 political prisoners in jails where dozens of people have reportedly died of torture over the past half-decade.

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