Jailed Uzbek Journalist Claims Early Release Won’t Allow Freedom of Movement
Advocate, June 15, 2004
A gay Uzbek journalist jailed on sex charges in a case
that has been internationally condemned as politically motivated said Monday
that authorities won’t grant him complete freedom to travel after his
expected early release.
Ruslan Sharipov, speaking by telephone from the
minimum-security prison in Tashkent where he is being held, told the
Associated Press that government officials had made his aunt sign documents
promising he would live with her after his release. “It’s house arrest,
just changing names,” he said. He also said he had been repeatedly harassed
and assaulted in recent months while allowed out to sleep at relatives’
homes under the loosened terms of his confinement. “They are making it every
day worse and worse,” Sharipov said.
Sharipov’s case has attracted widespread international
criticism, and last month he was awarded the 2004 Golden Pen of Freedom Award
from the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. On Monday, media
watchdog Reporters Without Borders issued a renewed plea for his release.
Sharipov was convicted in August 2003 of sodomy, having
sex with minors, and involving minors in antisocial behavior and sentenced to
5-1/2 years. An appeals court overturned the last charge in September and
reduced the jail term to four years. Sharipov has said he was tortured in
custody and forced to plead guilty, and he denies the charges.
The Foreign Ministry said in March that Sharipov could be
freed last Friday, under a presidential amnesty that would further reduce his
sentence. A group of supporters gathered outside the prison where he is being
held Saturday, expecting him to go free. But prison officials said they had up
to a month under Uzbek law to convene a parole commission and have a court
decide his fate. However, Sharipov said he was summoned Sunday to appear
without notice before the parole commission, which recommended changing the
terms of his confinement at a hearing that lasted less than five minutes.
Sharipov said under the expected terms of his release, he
would also be required to pay a portion of his salary to the government. It
wasn’t known when a court would convene to approve the arrangement. Since
the gathering at the prison, Sharipov said authorities also aren’t allowing
him to sleep at his aunt’s house as he had previously done. Still, he said
he is allowed to leave the prison for lunch and dinner.
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