Last edited: November 02, 2003

Gay Journalist Denied Prison Release for Appeal, September 24, 2003

By Jon ben Asher, Newscenter, European Bureau Chief

Tashkent, Uzbekistan—A gay journalist imprisoned in Uzbekistan on what human rights groups call trumped up charges has been denied release while his case is being appealed.

Ruslan Sharipov was sentenced last month to 5 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of sodomy, having sex with minors and running a brothel. An outspoken critic of the Uzbek government, Shapirov denies the charges and says he was forced into confessing as a result of torture by prison guards while he was awaiting trial.

“Ikramov has been a fearless critic of the Uzbek government,” said Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division. “His reports let the world know about human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. We suspect that there may be more to this incident than mere criminal thuggery.”

This week an appeals court in Tashkent, the capital, rejected his plea for freedom while the appeal is underway.

In a letter earlier this month to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sharipov wrote that he feared he would be murdered in prison. In his letter he says he had been forced to write a suicide note declaring he had killed himself by his own choice.

“I was clearly told that if I would write any further appeals or complaints, I would ‘commit suicide’.”

Sharipov wrote that guards chose forms of torture that wouldn’t leave marks on his body, such as placing a gas mask on his head and spraying an unknown substance inside that hindered breathing. He also said he was threatened he would be injected with the AIDS virus.

The Uzbek government denies it uses torture, but a United Nations investigation last year found evidence of “systematic” torture in the Central Asian nation.

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