Uzbekistan: activist freed after 9 years in prison

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TASHKENT (TCA) — An Uzbek journalist and rights activist, Dilmurod Saiid, was released from prison on February 3. Saiid was arrested in February 2009 on charges of forgery and extortion and sentenced to twelve and a half years in prison. He is known for reporting on human rights violations in Uzbekistan.

Dilmurod Saiid is one of several people widely considered political prisoners who have been freed since President Shavkat Mirziyoev came to power in 2016, after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reports.

Saiid, 56, told RFE/RL that he was very grateful to the activists, journalists, and human rights groups that pushed for his release.

“In those nine years I experienced different kinds of pressure, including psychological and physical torture,” Saiid said after his release.

“Now all of those things are behind me and I am looking forward to moving on with my life, to freely expressing my thoughts and opinions,” he said.

An independent journalist and member of Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik (Compassion), Saiid was known before his arrest for writing articles that were critical of the economic and social situation in Uzbekistan.

Months after Saiid was sentenced, his wife and six-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on their way from Tashkent to visit him in prison in the city of Navoi.

Saiid told RFE/RL that he maintains his innocence and will seek full exoneration.

In October 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Uzbek authorities had taken “some positive steps” during President Mirziyoev’s first year in office and called for “sustainable” improvements in human rights.

On February 5, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir welcomed reports of the release of journalist Dilmurod Saiid. “I commend the release of Dilmurod Saiid as an important step forward in the media situation in Uzbekistan,” Désir said. “I call on the authorities to release all journalists who remain behind bars, including Yusuf Ruzimurodov, Bobomurod Abdullaev, Gayrat Mikhliboev and Khayot (Khan) Nasreddinov.”

Sergey Kwan

TCA