Last edited: November 02, 2003

Uzbek Appeals Court Rejects Plea for Release on Bail of Gay Journalist

Associated Press, September 23, 2003

By Burt Herman

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan—An Uzbek appeals court rejected Tuesday a plea by a gay journalist to be freed on bail while his case is reconsidered, after his defense claimed pressure by authorities made it impossible to freely discuss the case in prison with their client.

Ruslan Sharipov was sentenced last month to 5 1/2 years in jail for having homosexual sex, having sex with minors and running a brothel. He pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers at the trial after earlier maintaining that he was innocent and the case fabricated.

In a letter earlier this month to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sharipov wrote that he had been tortured in jail and coerced to plead guilty, and also was 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, that is, I would ‘kill myself,’” Sharipov wrote in the letter released by human rights activists.

Sharipov wrote that police 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 virus that causes AIDS.

During a visit last year, the U.N. special envoy for torture found evidence of “systematic” torture in this Central Asian nation. The Uzbek government has acknowledged individual cases but denied that torture is as widespread as the U.N. report claimed.

On Tuesday, journalists and diplomats from the British, French, German and Dutch embassies were asked to leave the courtroom by Judge Shagiaz Sharakhmetov, who said the hearing at the Tashkent City Court was closed.

Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist on Sharipov’s defense team, said they made the bail request because Sharipov is suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems, as well as difficulties for lawyers to communicate with Sharipov because of pressure by prison authorities.

After judges rejected the motion, the court heard testimony from three of Sharipov’s alleged underage victims, Ikramov said.

Sharipov’s appeal continues Thursday.

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