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Uzbekistan: New abuse of jailed dissident

27-08-2009

New York, (HRW): Uzbek authorities should promptly investigate new allegations of abuse against a political prisoner, Yusuf Jumaev, and ensure that his family is permitted regular visits, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

Jumaev’s daughter, Feruza Jumaeva, who saw him on August 17, 2009, told Human Rights Watch that Jumaev was beaten by a prison guard not long before her visit. She said that she saw bruises on his body, which he told her came from being beaten, and that he told her he continues to be subject to insults and humiliation.

“The abuse of this peaceful poet and dissident needs to stop,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Jumaev should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and Uzbek authorities should free him without delay.”

Jumaeva told Human Rights Watch that her father said the beating was carried out by Jamshid Atoev, a member of the prison staff who oversees one of the prisoner brigades. The guard reportedly approached Jumaev as he was sitting in the exercise yard, and delivered a strong punch to his spine. Jumaev told his daughter that when he asked why he was being beaten, Atoev punched him repeatedly in the chest area and the head.

Jumaev is among the many dissidents and human rights activists jailed by the Uzbek authorities on political grounds. He is a poet and political dissident who called for President Islam Karimov’s resignation in the period before the country’s presidential election in December 2007. He has suffered repeated abuse in prison.

Jumaev is in poor health, his daughter said. He is emaciated, with his bones sticking out from under his skin, is very weak, and has started to stoop over.

She also said that prison authorities forced her to wait six days before permitting her to see her father and threatened to cut off family visits.

Jumaeva said she arrived in Jaslyk, the prison in which her father is being held, on August 11. She spent six days waiting in the “relatives’ hotel,” two rooms and a kitchen in a building inside the prison compound where the families of prisoners are permitted to stay during extended visits. Jumaeva described the rooms as very dirty, with beds infested with fleas and lice. At around 3 p.m. on August 17, prison guards finally permitted her to meet with her father.

The following morning, Jumaeva was summoned by the head of Jaslyk prison, Qurolboi Berdiev, to his office. The prison guards who came to collect her told her that her visit with her father was over and that she should take her things with her. She said that Berdiev accused her of making up stories about Jumaev’s ill-treatment and telling them to Uzbekistan’s “enemies,” adding that he could see to it that she never gains access to the prison again.

Jumaeva and other members of the Jumaev family have reported previous abuse of Jumaev in Jaslyk prison to Human Rights Watch.

“Uzbek authorities should be investigating the serious allegations of abuse at Jaslyk, not threatening to cut off visits by those who report them,” said Cartner.

This incident is the latest in a catalogue of abuse against Jumaev in the prison. Family members interviewed by Human Rights Watch over the last year said that prison guards have harassed, insulted, and beaten Jumaev regularly since he was transferred there in July 2008. The “severe regime” prison is notorious for its harsh conditions, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture has called for it to be closed down.

Jumaev was originally sentenced to five years in a penal colony (kolonia poseleniye) – effectively a minimum-security prison – by Bukhara Regional Court on April 15, 2008 on charges that included ‘insult” and “resisting arrest.”

The Uzbek government should immediately and unconditionally free all wrongfully imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, political opposition members, and other activists held on politically motivated charges, Human Rights Watch said.

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