Uzbek Journalist Pleads Guilty to Being Gay
PlanetOut.com Network, August 12, 2003
By Ari Bendersky
SUMMARY: The admission of guilt by an openly gay Uzbek journalist who
was charged with acts of homosexuality has human rights workers concerned that
he may have been unduly coerced.
The admission of guilt by an openly gay Uzbek journalist who was charged
with acts of homosexuality has human rights workers concerned that he may have
been tortured and unduly coerced.
Ruslan Sharipov, 25, a longtime activist and independent journalist,
pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he had sex with other men, including
minors. Sharipov dismissed his lawyers from his closed-door trial in Tashkent,
Uzbekistan, and said he would publicly beg for the forgiveness of Uzbek
President Islam Karimov and other ranking officials, whom the journalist had
openly criticized in past articles.
Sharipov told one of his recently dismissed lawyers that he was forced to
reject legal advisement and profess his guilt out of fear for his safety and
that of his mother, according to a report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW)
on Aug. 12.
Sharipov was taken into custody on May 26 under Article 120 of the Uzbek
Criminal Code: having sex with another man. Currently, gay men have no
protections under Uzbek law.
The young activist has never hidden his sexual orientation, but he had
asserted that charges of sex with minors were fabricated and brought against
him after he was already detained, according to Acacia Shields, the Central
Asia researcher with HRW. Shields also said an HRW worker in Tashkent met with
Sharipov in late May, when the journalist revealed that police had threatened
to sodomize him with a bottle.
“These additional charges appear to be an attempt to play on prejudices
about gay men and to discourage the international community from speaking out
in defense of Sharipov,” said Elizabeth Andersen, HRW’s executive
director. “This is not the time to be silent.”
Last week, Sharipov suddenly changed his story.
“The statements he [Sharipov] made on Aug. 8 are certainly grounds for
concern,” Shields told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network. “To do such an
about-face, from denying the charges and arranging for lawyers to suddenly
saying he’ll admit to all charges, ask for forgiveness from the president
and dismiss his lawyers, certainly suggests coercion.”
Article 120 has been on the books since the Soviet era, perhaps going as
far back as the Stalinist 1930s. It is defined as “consensual satisfaction
of the sexual needs of one man with another man.” HRW has called for the
immediate release of Sharipov and a complete retraction of this law, calling
it highly discriminatory.
According to Amnesty International (AI), Sharipov’s case isn’t unique:
Torture is widespread in Uzbekistan. In late 2002, the United Nations Special
Rapporteur on Torture stated that coercion through pain is systematic in the
country, according to an AI report from June.
“Members of the Uzbek human rights community fear that Ruslan Sharipov
will be subjected to further ill treatment and torture in detention, both by
law enforcement officials and by other prisoners, because of his outspoken
criticisms of the authorities and also because he is openly gay,” the AI
statement read. “Amnesty International is therefore concerned that a trial
against him might not follow international standards of fair trial.”
If charged, Sharipov faces up to three years in prison under the antiquated
“In cases where police could charge a person under Article 120, they
don’t generally go to trial. Police usually simply bribe gay men under the
threat of charging them with this article,” Shields said. “We think this
case has gone this far because Ruslan is a human rights activist, and the
government of Uzbekistan is always looking for something or some area in which
a dissident is vulnerable. They found it.”
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