Uzbekistan: Court Rules to Investigate Journalist Torture Claims
Bobomurod Abdullayev took off his shirt in the courtroom to show bruising along his left arm.
On the first day of hearings in the sedition trial of journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev, a court in Uzbekistan has granted a motion to investigate claims the reporter has been tortured while in custody.
During the March 7 hearing, Abdullayev, who was present at the Tashkent city courtroom, removed his shirt to show people in the gallery bruising along his left arm that he says are the result of beatings sustained while he has been in a National Security Services holding cell.
Abdullayev’s defense lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, asked that his client be submitted to a fuller examination to test those claims. State prosecutor Ilhom Kabulov supported the motion, which was granted by Judge Zafar Nurmatov.
In informing the court of his decision, Nurmatov recalled that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree in late November barring courts from admitting evidence extorted by means of torture.
Abdurahmon Tashanov, an activist with the Ezgulik rights group, said the court’s decision to authorize a medical examination constituted a positive breakthrough.
“In practice, this happens very seldom. As a rule, the court does not consider pleas from the defendant or lawyers about the use of torture,” he said.
Abdullayev was arrested by the National Security Services, or SNB, in late September and then charged with writing seditious material with the intent of toppling the government. Mayorov says that he learned after meeting his client earlier this month that Abdullayev was subjected to several days of brutal maltreatment in the period immediately after his arrest.
“They beat him on his back, his legs and along his left arm with a 1-meter-long plastic pipe. The worst torture was that they forced him to go six days without sleeping. For the entire duration of the six days, they didn’t allow him to sit or lie down,” Mayorov said in a statement earlier this week. “The third form of torture was beating him on his back and head with a computer cable.
On March 7, Mayorov followed up those claims by adding that Abdullayev was spared physical abuse after November 5.
“I very much hope that the new circumstances that have enabled transparency over the Abdullayev case and, most importantly, that the changes occurring in some state bodies are ground to believe in the improvement of Abdullayev’s situation,” Mayorov said.
The changes referenced by Mayorov are an allusion the full-frontal assault mounted by Mirziyoyev on the SNB, which has had its power substantially curtailed amid accusations it has presided over a historic and systematic campaign of torture.