Last edited: November 07, 2003

Gay Uzbek Journalist Convicted of Sodomy

Associated Press, August 13, 2003

Gay Journalist in Uzbekistan Convicted of Sodomy, Bringing Scorn From International Groups

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan—An openly gay Uzbek journalist was found guilty of sodomy Wednesday in a trial that highlighted concerns about media freedoms and pressure against homosexuals in this tightly controlled Central Asian country.

International human rights and press groups immediately condemned the conviction as politically motivated.

A Tashkent district court convicted Ruslan Sharipov, 25, of having homosexual sex, having sex with minors and running a brothel and sentenced him to 5 1/2 years in jail, said Matilda Bogner, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, quoting Sharipov’s mother, Aza Sharipova.

Sharipov pleaded guilty and dismissed his lawyers at a hearing last week, after earlier maintaining that he was innocent and the case fabricated. His mother was the only outside observer allowed in the courtroom Wednesday when the judge announced the punishment.

Court officials were not immediately reachable for further details.

Uzbekistan’s human rights record has attracted more international attention since the country allowed U.S. troops to use a military base here. The Uzbek government tolerates no dissent, and politically motivated prosecution of journalists is common.

Sharipov, who leads an independent group that focuses on media freedom, has repeatedly been detained, beaten and questioned by police. His case has also brought to light the lesser-publicized issue of the rights of homosexuals.

Bogner said the conviction showed that “justice isn’t served in Uzbekistan and the judiciary isn’t independent.”

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission called for Sharipov’s immediate release and the dismissal of all charges against him. It said there was a serious danger that he was being mistreated in custody.

The group, based in San Francisco, said Sharipov had told those who had visited him in jail that he had been subjected to “continued and escalating beatings, threats of sexual violence and verbal abuse.”

The Paris-based media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, expressed deep concern over Sharipov’s case and demanded that the charges be dropped.

“Everything indicates that Sharipov was arrested on false and sordid pretenses designed to rid the authorities of a bothersome, dissident voice,” the group’s secretary general, Robert Menard, said in a letter to Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has also urged Sharipov’s release and raised concerns that he was tortured to confess. A U.N. envoy who visited Uzbekistan last year concluded that torture was systematic in the nation’s jails.

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