Uzbekistan Journalists Face Gay ‘Offense’
U.K., May 29, 2003
SUMMARY: Three human rights journalists in Uzbekistan
may be charged with the “criminal offense” of homosexuality for political
reasons, Human Rights Watch said.
Three human rights journalists in Uzbekistan may be
charged with the “criminal offense” of homosexuality for what a leading
international rights watchdog claims are politically motivated reasons.
The three men were detained on Monday, reports the
Associated Press. Ruslan Sharipov, a journalist who leads an independent civil
rights group focusing on protecting media freedom, has already been charged
with sex abuse and homosexuality. His colleagues Oleg Sarapulov and Azamat
Mamankulov have been threatened with similar charges, but have not been
U.S. organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a
statement that Sharipov’s history of writing critically about the Uzbek
government’s policies and past harassment against him and his colleagues
raised “strong suspicions” that the charges were politically motivated.
Elizabeth Andersen, the group’s Europe and Central
Asian division director, said: “That the authorities would charge him with
committing homosexual acts, violating his fundamental rights to
nondiscrimination and privacy, makes it doubly egregious.”
Sharipov had told an HRW representative, who had been
allowed to visit him in custody, that police had threatened to rape him with a
bottle and put a gas mask on him.
Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders,
has written to Uzbek President Islam Karimov expressing their deep concerns
about the arrests. The group’s secretary-general, Robert Menard, called the
arrests “a new, sordid way to harass or get rid of critical journalists who
have upset the authorities.”
Homosexuality is not uncommon in Uzbekistan but is still
regarded as a social taboo. While it is a criminal offense, cases of criminal
prosecution are rare.
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