Formonov and Karamatov were active members of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan in Gulistan, in Syrdaryo province. Police arrested them on April 29, 2006, and they were charged with attempting to blackmail a local businessman. They were tried at the Yangier City Court without the presence of either their attorney of choice or their non-attorney public defender, Tolib Yakubov, chair of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan who now lives in exile. They were each sentenced to nine years in prison on June 15, 2006. A week before the sentencing, in a private conversation at the prison with Mr. Yakubov, the men described how they were tortured and pressured into signing false confessions. Formonov is currently held at Jaslyk prison, in violation of the terms of his verdict, which specified that he be put into a ‘general’ regime prison (Jaslyk prison is ‘severe’ regime and so notorious for its harsh conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture following his visit to Uzbekistan recommended that it be closed down).
According to Ozoda Yakubova, Formonov’s wife, the head of the prison summoned Formonov to his office and ordered him to sign a statement testifying that he had committed “violations of the regime” and would not be eligible for amnesty. His wife told HRW that he initially refused, but after being tortured, he relented and gave the authorities his signature. Formonov has been repeatedly placed into a punishment cell for “breaking prison rules.” One such rule was “helping prisoners write appeals” although Formonov was never in possession of a pen and at most, only spoke to others about how to appeal their prison sentences. On January 8, 2008, Formonov was reportedly stripped of his overclothing, hand-cuffed and put into an unheated punishment cell for 15 days. In January 2008, temperatures in Uzbekistan reached approximately -20 C.
Karamatov was held in prison in Karshi until his health deteriorated in mid-October 2008 and he was transferred to a prison hospital. According to Karamatov’s family, who saw him in mid-November, Karamatov is very weak, coughing blood and had lost nearly half his body weight. Prison doctors have diagnosed him with a severe form of tuberculosis Prison officials have also accused Karamatov of violating internal prison rules to render him ineligible for amnesty or early release.