03/11/2017, 17.18
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Journalists and activists are released from prison under Shavkat Mirzyaev’s new version of tolerance

The US Embassy in Uzbekistan welcomes the release of journalists and human rights activists jailed for political reasons by the previous president. They include Jamshid Karimov, known for his investigative reporting on illegal activities by the authorities. He has always been very active against media censorship and all forms of authoritarianism.

Bishkek (AsiaNews) – The US Embassy in Uzbekistan has welcomed the release of activists jailed for political reasons under the government of the late President Islam Karimov.

In a statement, the embassy said "These positive steps seem to foreshadow future releases and a more tolerant approach to civil society in general”; however, "we were disappointed to learn of setbacks with other activists, such as the recent detention of Elena Urlaeva and the decision to uphold Azam Farmonov’s sentence extension."

Urlaeva, a campaigner against forced labour in Uzbekistan's cotton fields, was arrested ahead of an international meeting where she was scheduled to give evidence on human rights violations.

In a video recording published online, Urlaeva said had been arrested, beaten by police and taken to a psychiatric clinic in Tashkent.

Farmonov has been in prison since 2006 on extortion charges and was sentenced in 2015 to five more years for violating prison rules.

Since he took office in early December, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirzyaev has overseen the release of several dissidents convicted under President Islam Karimov.

Among them were journalists Muhammad Bekjanov, who spent 18 years behind bars, and Jamshid Karimov (pictured), Islam Karimov's nephew who had been one of his fiercest critics.

Jamshid is the son of Arslan Karimov, Islam Karimov’s older brother. He was released from a psychiatric institution in Samarkand where he had been forcibly and secretly held since January 2012.

Starting in early 2000s, the late president’s nephew worked for various mass media outlets, including the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the Fergana.Ru news agency as well as Arena, an independent Uzbekistan-based website.

As a journalist, Jamshid is known for his journalistic investigations into illegal actions by local authorities. He was very active in opposing censorship and authoritarianism at all levels.

Starting in 2004, he was subjected to numerous assaults and beatings by unidentified people as well as persecutions by local authorities. Placed under forced psychiatric treatment in mid-September 2006, he was released in November 2011 from a psychiatric institution in Samarkand.

“I have not committed any violations of laws, I am not [doing so now] and I will not [do so in future]. Committing violence, stealing or killing is not my job. I just work for mass media outlets. I am not a politician or rights advocate. I am simply Mr News. That’s all . . .”, Jamshid Karimov said in one of his most quoted statements.

In early 2012, the authorities forcibly committed him again to the Samarkand psychiatric hospital. "He was hospitalised two months after being released”, said his 19-year-old daughter, Eugenia.

“He was kept in a room with barred windows, like a prison cell. Different people are sent there, even murderers sometimes. There was no trial at all. He was summoned to the National Security Service to have a ‘talk’, but on his way there he was severely beaten by four men on the street. They knocked his tooth out, he was forced into a car and driven to the hospital.”

Dunya Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, welcome Karimov’s release.  “It is especially positive that this decision comes soon after the release of Muhammad Bekjanov and I encourage the authorities to release all imprisoned members of the media, including Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Salidzhon Abdurakhmanov and Dilmurod Said.”

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