Washington, D.C. – Freedom Now welcomes the release of human rights defender and religious freedom activist Gaybullo Jalilov from wrongful detention in Uzbekistan. Jalilov is the sixth political prisoner released from arbitrary detention in Uzbekistan in the last six months and the 19th since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev assumed power in late 2016.
Jalilov was released on March 16, 2018, after eight years and six months of wrongful imprisonment. He was arrested in September 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on fabricated national security-related charges. According to family members, he is currently in his home village in the southern Kashkadarya region.
“Gaybullo Jalilov spent nearly nine years wrongfully imprisoned for bringing to light the government’s persecution of independent Muslims,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “We are grateful that Gaybullo will be reunited with his family. However, we remain deeply concerned that he continues to suffer from severe mistreatment he experienced during his detention, including a beating that left him nearly deaf in both ears. We call on President Mirziyoyev to initiate a thorough and transparent investigation into these allegations of torture and to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”
Jalilov has been a member of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan since 2003. Prior to his arrest, his work focused on the Uzbekistani government’s violations of religious freedom. In particular, he has been monitoring religious persecution cases in the Kashkadarya region since 2004. At the time of Jalilov’s arrest in September 2009, he had collected information on over 200 arrests of independent Muslims.
On September 5, 2009, Jalilov was stopped by several plain clothes officers and forced into a vehicle. He was initially held incommunicado and his family was not informed of his whereabouts for two days. Jalilov was charged with a variety of national security-related charges including: terrorism, incitement of hatred, dissemination of materials containing threats to public safety, and participation in a banned organization.
Jalilov’s trial was plagued with inconsistencies and violations of fair trial standards. Jalilov’s first hearing was held November 24, 2009 in the Kashkadarya Regional Court. The hearing was closed and Jalilov’s family was barred from attending. Jalilov’s lawyer also did not attend the hearing because he was not notified. During the trial, Jalilov denied the charges against him and said that he confessed under torture. On January 18, 2010, the court convicted Jalilov and sentenced him to nine years in prison. On August 4, 2010, the government brought additional charges against him; including, membership in a banned organization and plotting to illegally remove public officials from power. His prison sentence was increased to 11 years.
Jalilov was tortured and suffered deplorable treatment while in detention. In November 2010, prison guards beat him repeatedly with truncheons leaving him nearly deaf in both ears. He had been kept incommunicado since October 2011, the last time his wife was able to visit him.
Freedom Now represented Jalilov as his pro bono international legal counsel. In May 2012, Freedom Now submitted a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Jalilov. In April 2013, the Working Group found his detention to be in violation of international law and called for Uzbekistan to immediately release him. Freedom Now recently filed a submission with the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017 in advance of Uzbekistan’s Universal Periodic Review. The submission highlights a number of cases, including Jalilov’s.