A prominent rights activist in Uzbekistan has said that the criminal case against reporter Bobomurod Abdullayev, who is facing sedition charges, is to be handed to the prosecutor’s office and wrested from the purview of the National Security Service, or SNB.
Surat Ikramov said in a emailed statement on February 20 that Abdullayev has hired a lawyer to take up his case, which the journalist’s family said he was prevented from doing earlier by the SNB.
Right advocates have said they hope that with the Tashkent prosecutor’s office taking over, the entire process may be opened up to more public scrutiny and that the case could even be dropped altogether.
Adbullayev was snatched off the street by SNB agents in late September. After several days of denying the reporter the right to contact relatives or speak to a lawyer, the SNB declared that they were investigating him on suspicion of being the mind behind the pseudonymous online political gossip writer Usman Khaknazarov. The security services argued that the writings were tantamount to a campaign to overthrow the government.
Ikramov says that Sergei Mayorov, the lawyer hired for Adbullayev, has written a complaint to the SNB and the Tashkent prosecutor’s office noting that his client was subjected to “mental and physical torture, and that he confessed to crimes he did not commit after being subjected to that torture.”
It was earlier reported that two SNB officers involved in the Adbullayev case have been fired and may themselves face prosecution.
The SNB is currently coming under a relentless onslaught of criticism from President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who is seen as wishing to sideline the security services with a view to bolstering his own position and advancing his economic reform agenda. RFE/RL this week reported on a speech that Mirziyoyev gave in the Bukhara region in which the president accused the security services of being responsible for atrocities and targeting innocent people.
"I even have photos showing torture," Mirziyoyev was cited as saying by RFE/RL’s Uzbekistan service on February 16. "I know the names of the investigators who committed these atrocities.”
He then went on to call officials in the SNB "mad dogs.”
Umida Niyazova, director of the Berlin-based Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, said it was fortuitous for Abdullayev that the SNB’s fortunes are in such a steep decline.
“The situation is very unpredictable. We may expect the prosecutor to demand some evidence from the investigation, and there may turn out not to be any. And what the prosecutors will do then is really quite unclear,” Niyazova said.
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