On August 10, Bishkek’s Pervomaysk District Court ordered that Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev remain in custody until September 8. In the meantime, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kyrgyzstan is to decide on the request of the Uzbek authorities to extradite the opposition journalist to Uzbekistan. Abdullaev was detained in Kyrgyzstan on August 9 upon the request of officials in Tashkent. He is being held in the Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (GKNB) detention facility while Uzbek law enforcement agencies are investigating him for a “number of crimes”, according to UKMK.
At the entrance to the Pervomaysk District Court, Abdullaev answered questions from local journalists and said that his detention by the Kyrgyz special services was absolutely baseless.
“I was detained at the request of Uzbekistan. They wrote in the request that I allegedly write articles under the pseudonym Qora Mergan (“Black Shooter”). On July 23, they held a trial in my absence in the Mirzo-Ulugbek District Court of Tashkent City and sent the charges here”, Abdullaev told local journalists, adding that he had nothing to do with articles published on social networks under the pseudonym Qora Mergan.
GKNB representative Rakhat Sulaimanov confirmed to the Azattyk Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL that Abdullaev was detained at the request of Uzbekistan.
“In the framework of the 1993 Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, a citizen of Uzbekistan, A. B., born 1973, was detained. He is wanted for a number of crimes by the law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan. He was detained in a pretrial detention facility of the State National Security Committee. The Procurator-General’s Office is currently considering election issues in respect of A. B. and his extradition to the competent authorities of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, Rakhat Sulaimanov said in an interview with Azattyk.
One of the journalist’s lawyers, Timur Karabayev, told Azattyk that his client was charged under articles 158 (“Attacks on the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan”) and 159 (“Attacks on the constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan”) of the Criminal Code in his home country.
Articles published under the pseudonym Qora Mergan in social networks and the eponymous Telegram channel with 3,000 subscribers, are known for their harsh criticism of the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
On August 9 and August 10, when Abdullaev was already in detention, the Telegram Channel continued to issue publications authored by Qora Mergan.
Prior to his arrest, Abdullaev had repeatedly stated that he had nothing to do with Qora Mergan. On July 25 this year, Abdullaev appeared on his YouTube channel, saying that a number of bloggers and writers suspected him of writing materials published on Facebook under the pseudonym Qora Mergan and categorically denied his involvement in those materials.
After the court hearing, another of Abdullaev’s lawyers Natalya Kotik, told journalists that her client had applied to UNHCR in Bishkek for asylum. In his application, the journalist requested the assistance of an international organization in resettling him in a third country due to the danger to his life in Kyrgyzstan.
Abdullaev had arrived in Kyrgyzstan in February this year at the invitation of the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) to undergo a four-month training course. However, after completing his training, Abdullaev was unable to leave the country because Kyrgyzstan’s borders had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In April 2020, Sergei Mayorov, another lawyer for Abdullaev in Tashkent, told Ozodlik that he had sent a request to the Yakkasaray District Internal Affairs Department of Tashkent City and the State Security Service (SGB) of Uzbekistan to find out whether a new criminal case had been initiated against the journalist. In response to Mayorov’s request, the Yakkasaray District Internal Affairs Department replied that “no criminal case has been initiated against B. K. Abdullaev”. The State Security Service of Uzbekistan also informed Mayorov that “no statements or complaints were received against B. K. Abdullaev”.
On August 10, Mayorov told Ozodlik that he again asked the SGB to provide him with information about when, under which article of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, and which official criminal case was initiated against Abdullaev. The lawyer has not yet received a response from the SNB.
Abdullaev was previously detained In September 2017 in Tashkent by Uzbek special services and charged with publishing articles on the Internet under the pseudonym “Usman Khaknazarov” allegedly calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order in Uzbekistan. In March 2018, Abdullaev admitted that he had used this pseudonym to publish critical articles but denied the authorship of materials calling for violence. The prosecutor recommended that the court sentence Abdullaev to five years’ imprisonment.
On May 7, 2018, the Tashkent City Criminal Court found Abdullaev guilty of committing an offence under article 159, paragraph 1 (b) of the Criminal Code (offences against the constitutional order of Uzbekistan). The court sentenced him to three years of correctional labor with a retention of 20% of his salary and ordered his release.