Human rights defenders Alisher Karamatov (aged 41), and Azam Farmonov (aged 30), were detained on 29 April 2006 as they defended the rights of local farmers who had accused district farming officials of extortion and corruption. They were allegedly tortured, charged with extortion and subjected to an unfair trial where they were denied adequate legal representation. Alisher and Azam are regional heads of the independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan. They said that after they started investigating the farmers’ allegations and confronted local officials with their findings, some of the farmers were coerced, including through physical intimidation, into claiming that Farmonov and Karamatov had pressured farmers to accuse the local officials of wrongdoing.
Authorities gave no prior notice of the start of the men’s trial in June 2006, and their legal representative had just four days to prepare the defense. The men were sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for extortion under Article 165 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code. Amnesty International considers the two men to be prisoners of conscience who were, in truth, jailed on account of their human rights activism.
There have been recent serious concerns for the health of Alisher Karamatov, who has been treated for tuberculosis in Sangorodok, a prison hospital facility near Tashkent, since October 2008. He had been subjected to torture, beatings and humiliation by prison guards since 2007 while held at Karshi prison camp and had lost nearly half his body weight. Azam Farmonov continues to be held at Yaslik prison.
Help us demand the immediate release if these two prisoners of conscience by participating in Amnesty International’s campaign Global Write-a-thon 2009.