Uzbek Court Reduces Sentence in Gay Case
Associated Press, September 25, 2003
By Burt Herman
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan—An Uzbek appeals court reduced the sentence Thursday
of a gay journalist convicted of having homosexual sex to four years from 5
1/2 years in a case that has drawn international criticism from human rights
Ruslan Sharipov was convicted last month of having homosexual sex—illegal
in Uzbekistan under laws still on the books from Soviet times—and also of
having sex with minors and attracting minors to anti-social activity.
In a closed hearing, the Uzbek City Court removed the last charge against
Sharipov and reduced his sentence, said Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist
who is on Sharipov’s defense team.
The journalist still plans to appeal his case to Uzbekistan’s high court,
At his trial, Sharipov maintained his innocence, but then abruptly pleaded
guilty and dismissed his lawyers. In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan, he alleged that he had been tortured into confessing his guilt and that
police forced him to write a suicide note and threatened to kill him if he
fought the charges.
The U.N. torture envoy visited Uzbekistan last year after strong
international pressure led by the United States, which has become a strategic
partner of the Central Asian nation in the war in neighboring Afghanistan. The
envoy found “systematic” evidence of torture in Uzbek prisons.
The Uzbek government is working on a response to the U.N. envoy and has
acknowledged some cases of torture, but denied the problem is as widespread as
the report claimed.
The Sharipov case has drawn the attention of international media and human
rights groups who say authorities brought the charges because of the
journalist’s criticism of the government.
Ikramov, the human rights activist, was taken from his car last month and
beaten by four masked men in an assault supporters say was linked to his
Matilda Bogner, who runs the Uzbekistan chapter of Human Rights Watch, said
the lesser sentence could help Sharipov eventually be granted freedom under
the country’s annual amnesties for prisoners. Still, she criticized the
court for not overturning the verdict and said the case was characterized by
“lack of evidence and breaches of international law.”
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