This fourth in a series of articles by Dmitry Tihonov tells about his prosecution and trial on trumped-up charges. Mr. Tihonov is a journalist and human rights defender, who was suppressed for documenting forced labour in Uzbekistan. After several fabricated cases and false accusations, his house in Angren, Uzbekistan, was burned in October last year.
by Dmitry Tihonov
On December 17, the police in Angren arrested me, and I was sent to court for trial on the charges under Article 183 (“Disorderly conduct”) of the Uzbek Administrative Code. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of five days in prison. The judge instead fined me in the amount of five minimum salaries.
At the trial, officials of the general prosecutor’s office represented the investigators. My lawyer explained that the participation of the prosecutor in an administrative case was highly unusual, indicating heightened interest in my case.
In my statement, I asked the court to attach to the case materials a legal guide concerning the child and forced labour. It presents the national laws and ILO conventions ratified by Uzbekistan that prohibit child and forced labour. Neither the judge nor the prosecutor did have any objections concerning the legal guide.
The public prosecutor also asked me to present my identity papers and explain my interest in labour issues. I presented the court my certificate as a human rights defender provided to me by Front Line Defenders, an international organization that has a consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council. Neither the court nor the prosecutor’s office expressed any objections concerning the certificate. In fact, the prosecutor said that in the future, in order to avoid misunderstandings, he recommended that I show the certificate to people I interacted with. His comments contrasted previous positions. Earlier in 2015, state media published multiple articles accusing Front Line of being an obscure and dangerous organization for which I was an agent.
Yet the sentence confirmed that the real target was my work as human rights activist. Most likely, they would not imprison me in exchange for my departure from Uzbekistan. To be able to freely leave the country, I had to pay the fine, settling the court case.
The “Ideological Spy”
“I do not understand why our law enforcement agencies are so short-sighted concerning the dangers brought by Dmitry Tikhonov?” was the name of an article published in state media on December 20, 2015. The article, published on Zamondosh, went on to say:
“In the Republic of Uzbekistan, an ideological spy is successfully operating for many years, that is Dmitry Tikhonov.” “For a long time, all the different forces have been trying to denigrate the existing and legitimate power of our country […]. His actions […] are solely aimed at undermining the state system.”
“He […] is a systematic seeker of the truth, an ideological opponent of the current political system […]. It is not such a big step from ideological diversion to acts of terrorism, as the world practice shows […]. Tikhonov may well be associated with a terrorist organization.”
The article also included suggested actions. And indeed, shortly after its publication, the police claimed that my neighbour found instructions for making improvised explosive devices in my burned house. Not because they were ever found there, but because they wanted to find them.
I then received a letter saying that if I did leave the country, I would be imprisoned. Three administrative cases had been filed. Fabricating a fourth proceeding and the basis for imprisonment would not be a challenge for the security services. They already tried to stick me with the stain of terrorism, hoping to warn people against me.
Yet the accusation does not hold. I am a human rights defender. Among us, from time to time emerge politicians, but not terrorists. The protection of human rights demands changes without violence. Terrorism cannot be a method of human rights defenders.
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