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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