The political prisoner Salijon Abdurakhmanov
The Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU) is planning a protest demanding the immediate release of Salijon Abdurakhmanov on November 10. It is planned to take place on the so-called presidential highway, a road that the president of the country takes to travel to and from his residence.
The PAU submitted an application for the protest action to the Tashkent khokim (administrator) on October 23.
According to PAU’s leader Elena Urlaeva, the activists are planning to demonstrate for six days by cutting off the road used by the presidential motorcade at 9.30am each day.
The activists say they had been compelled to organize such a resolute protest action upon hearing of the gravely ill journalist’s 15-day solitary confinement as punishment for his family having given an interview to the press.
Ms. Urlaeva believes that the fact that the journalist has been transferred to the prison hospital Sangorod in Tashkent for the third time this year means that his health is in a very bad state.
Will the president stop?
The planned protest action is the most bold in the history of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan and the activists are taking it very seriously.
Ms. Urlaeva told Uznews.net that they have already measured the width of the road and estimated that twelve people are needed to form a human chain to block it.
The activists plan to wear signs demanding the immediate release of the journalist.
Elena Urlaeva is planning to be in the center of the human chain.
The PAU’s leader says they have already picked “reliable and staunch protesters” to make up the rest of the human chain.
She does not want to reveal their names at this time but believes “they won’t move a muscle at the sight of the presidential security”.
The activists count on the presidential motorcade stopping when they notice the people blocking the road. They then plan to convey the message to the president that Salijon Abdurakhmanov should be immediately released.
“Enough with this abuse”
The human rights activists believe that 63-year-old journalist sentenced to ten years prison on trump-up charged of drug possession in 2008 should have been freed a long time ago.
All the prisoners older than 60 are eligible for an annual parole review. The journalist should qualify for such an amnesty especially since he is gravely ill.
“PAU has thoroughly studied the case against the journalist and can confirm what everybody already knows – this is a trumped-up case,” states Ms. Urlaeva.
On June 7 2008 while his car was at the mechanics workshop someone planted two packets of drugs in his petrol tank, which police “located” when Abdurakhmanov picked up his car.
The investigators, knowing that the charges were crudely fabricated, begged the journalist to make a deal—to stop his human rights work in exchange for an amnesty. During the hearing prosecutors were not able to find a single witness of the journalist’s alleged “criminal activity”, nor any other evidence besides the two packets of drugs found in his car. The members of the court did not ask the journalist where he got the drugs or what he was planning to do with them.
However, Abdurakhmanov turned out to be a man of principle, and as a result in October 2008, without any material evidence, he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 10 years to be served at the penal colony 61/64 in Qashqadaryo.
“This abuse needs to stop. It’s enough. His only crime was that he wrote articles protecting his fellow citizens,” says Ms. Urlaeva.