|MARCH 7, 2003|
Khusnutddin Kutbiddinov, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Yusuf Rasulov, Voice of America
Kutbiddinov, of the U.S. governmentfunded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and Rasulov, with the U.S. governmentfunded Voice of America, were attacked while trying to cover an antigovernment protest in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent. The journalists had gone to the Chorsu Bazaar in the center of Tashkent to report on a group of about 40 women protesting the detention and torture of their sons and husbands on charges of religious extremism.
The journalists arrived at the bazaar after the police had dispersed the demonstrators and interviewed several women who had evaded arrest. They also briefly spoke to some police officers at the scene. As Kutbiddinov and Rasulov were leaving the area, a group of men attacked them.
"Around 20 men approached us and started hitting us," Kutbiddinov told Agence France_Presse. "They pushed us to the ground and kicked us." The men also stole the reporters' bags, which contained the taped interviews with the women. Despite pleas from the journalists for help, a group of police officers watched the attack and did nothing.
MAY 26, 2003
Updated: October 27, 2004
Ruslan Sharipov, Prima and the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan
Sharipov, an independent journalist and human rights activist who was persecuted and imprisoned by Uzbek authorities, fled from detention in June 2004 and resettled in the United States in October 2004 after gaining political refugee status.
In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Sharipov said he was excited to "taste freedom again" and thanked the numerous press and human rights organizations that supported him. Sharipov said he arrived in the United States on October 21 after spending four months in exile in Moscow. He traveled the next day to California, where he was reunited with his mother and brother.
The Uzbek police and security service harassed Sharipov for several years because of his articles on police abuses and press freedom violations, which were written for the Russian news agency Prima and the Web site of the Union of Independent Journalists in Uzbekistan. Many of Sharipov's articles were published in English, making them accessible to an international audience.
Uzbek authorities stepped up their attacks in 2003, when Sharipov was convicted on criminal charges of sodomy, having sex with minors, and managing prostitutes. Sharipov, who is openly gay, denied the accusations and said that authorities tortured him to get a confession. He was sentenced to five and a half years in prison, a term that was later reduced to three years.
On March 13, 2004, Sharipov was moved from Tavaksay Prison in Tashkent Region to serve the remainder of his term under house arrest near a low-security prison in the Kibray District, also in Tashkent Region. About the same time, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry promised to review Sharipov's case and suggested he could be released unconditionally the next month.
Instead, the Hamza District Court in Tashkent ruled in June that Sharipov had to serve the remainder of his sentence in Bukhara, a city 370 miles southwest of the capital, Tashkent, according to press reports. Surat Ikhramov, a member of Sharipov's defense team, said he was not informed of the hearing and called the decision an official effort to isolate Sharipov.
Sharipov was to be transferred to Bukhara on June 25, but he fled Uzbekistan for Moscow, where he stayed while U.S. officials processed his application for refugee status.