Last edited: November 02, 2003

UGA Friends Say Charges Against Human Rights Activist Are Fake

Associated Press, September 3, 2003

ATHENS, Ga.—Friends and students at the University of Georgia who knew Ruslan Sharipov when he was a student say he is being prosecuted by the Uzbekistan government for political purposes.

Sharipov, who attended UGA as an exchange student in 1999-2000, has been jailed in Uzbekistan on charges of being gay.

Critics argue the charges were trumped up to undermine Sharipov’s work as an independent human rights activist and journalist.

He was very passionate about his beliefs, said Farah Omar, a university alumna and friend of Sharipov. He was very involved at UGA, and different people who worked at the International Student Life office always talked of him doing positive things.

Sharipov has been a critic of police corruption and human rights abuses since returning to Uzbekistan.

While at UGA, Sharipov created an Asian Central Organization in 2000, said ISL coordinator Leigh Poole.

Sharipov, 25, was sentenced last month to 5 1/2 years in jail for having homosexual sex, having sex with minors and running a brothel.

Sharipov pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers at the trial after earlier maintaining that he was innocent and the case fabricated. But human rights and media freedom groups said Sharipov may have been tortured and forced to confess.

“I’m absolutely sure he is being tortured,” Omar said. “I urge people to petition on the Web site and to write letters directly to the chancellors and president of Uzbekistan in order to get his release.”

Sharipov, who leads an independent group that focuses on media freedom, has repeatedly been detained, beaten and questioned by police.

When I was told that a student who was heavily involved on campus was arrested, I was really surprised, said Heidi Millington, president of the UGA chapter of Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is circulating a petition on campus for Sharipov’s release.

  • Information from: Athens Banner-Herald

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