Reporters Without Borders

BBC correspondent tells court he was tortured while detained

BBC correspondent tells court he was tortured while detained

Published on Tuesday 23 August 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders reiterates it call to the judicial authorities to drop all charges against BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov, whose trial began on 16 August in the northern city of Khujand.

“Usmonov’s claims of being tortured while in detention are shocking,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must be the subject of a serious investigation and those responsible should be punished. Unfortunately this is just the latest in a long list of irregularities since his arrest on 13 June, including denial of defence rights for a long period, statements obtained under duress and lack of evidence. His acquittal is the only way the authorities can emerge from this without completely discrediting themselves.”

The BBC reported on 19 August that during last week’s hearings, Usmonov said he had been burned with lit cigarettes and beaten while detained.

After his arrest on 13 June, he was initially accused of being a member of the outlawed Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Now he is charged with being in contact with Hizb-ut-Tahrir without telling the authorities.


15.07.2011-Authorities free BBC correspondent but put him under judicial control

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the authorities have released BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov, although they have placed him under judicial control. He had been held since 13 June. His release was announced yesterday by prosecutor general Sherkhan Salimzade.

“We are pleased that Usmonov has been freed and is now back with his family after a month in detention, but we reiterate our call for the withdrawal of all the charges against him,” Reporters Without Borders said.

His lawyer, Fayziniso Vohidova, told Reporters Without Borders that he was released because “the charges against him were changed, in the absence of evidence against him” and because of “the pressure from the international community and organizations that defend journalists.”

Usmonov is now charged with being in contact with the outlawed Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir without telling the authorities.


13.07.2011-After being held for one month, BBC reporter must be freed without delay

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Urinboy Usmonov, a reporter for the BBC’s Uzbek-language service in the northwestern province of Sughd, who has been held by the Tajik security services for exactly a month on suspicion of links to a banned Islamist group.

Prosecutor general Sherkhan Salimzade announced yesterday that the investigation has been completed and that the case been passed to the Sughd provincial prosecutor’s office.

“The fact that a ‘summary’ of the prosecution case has been sent to President Emomali Rakhmon suggests that all the appeals by journalists and the international community have been noted,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The justice system should nonetheless remain in charge of the case, and we hope that the completion of the investigation leads quickly to an impartial resolution that respects the rules of international law.

“As the investigation is now over, there is nothing to prevent this journalist’s conditional release. This should take place without delay. The justice system’s credibility would be greatly reinforced if all the judicial irregularities that have occurred since Usmonov’s arrest were also the subject of a serious investigation.”

Usmonov was arrested on 13 June because of his alleged links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an Islamist party that is outlawed in Tajikistan. He had been covering a trial of members of the party for the BBC.


29.06.2011-Worldwide call for BBC correspondent’s release

Reporters Without Borders today joined a renewed call by BBC staff worldwide today for the immediate and unconditional release of the BBC’s correspondent in Tajikistan, Urinboy Usmonov, who has been held since 13 June in the northwestern town of Kujand and said it was very concerned about his plight.

“The apparent dropping of the charge of belonging to an illegal political party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, shows how very flimsy the accusations against him are,” the organisation said. “The authorities are now trying to save face. The new charges against him are groundless and also serious violations of media freedom.”

Usmonov’s lawyer, Faiziniso Vohidova, said the dropping of the charge indicated that the GNKB secret police did not have enough evidence. But he still faces accusations of not informing the authorities of his journalistic contacts with the party and of reporting its statements. Usmonov has all the official accreditation he needs to do his job. Vohidova noted that a journalist is “not obliged to tell the authorities of his investigations, which would violate the principle of the privacy of sources.” The only “evidence” against him were a few books and documents of the party found on his computer.

“As we said when he was arrested, having this material and the fact that he met two party members was part of his normal journalistic work of investigating the party, “ Reporters Without Borders said.

Vohidova and the head of the BBC’s central Asian service, Hamid Ismoilov, saw how physically and psychologically fragile he was when they visited him in prison. “Even if he has been allowed to see a doctor since he was switched to preventive detention, his state of health is worrying,” the lawyer said.

Usmonov, 59, has diabetes and heart problems and friends say he has been ill-treated. “We don’t know exactly what happened on the night he was arrested,” said Vohidova, who has only been allowed to meet him in the presence of the investigating judge. She said she was hoping to see him alone in the next few days.

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