Uzbekistan: Writer faces another prison term

2 April 2013

Uzbekistani writer Mamadali Makhmudov will not be released from prison on completion of his 14-year jail term, reported Amnesty International.

Mamadali Makhmudov
Mamadali Makhmudov. Photo: courtesy of Pen International

On 5 March 2013, Makhmudov was told that a new criminal case had been filed against him for allegedly violating prison rules. Makhmudov is one of the longest serving writers in prison, having been held since 1999. He was one of the 50 Emblematic PEN Cases, each representing a year of the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee’s existence, featured in the 2010 celebrations of the committee’s 50th anniversary.

Both PEN International and Amnesty International call on the Uzbekistani authorities to immediately release Makhmudov and to ensure that he is immediately provided with all necessary medical attention.

An Urgent Action appeal was issued by Amnesty International on 26 March 2013. Click here before 7 May 2013 to follow Amnesty’s recommended actions.


Uzbekistani writer Mamadali Makhmudov was told on 5 March 2013 that a new criminal case for allegedly violating prison rules has been initiated against him. He was due to be released from detention after serving 14 years in prison in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. His family have been denied visits and fear that he may not survive a further term in prison.

Mamadali Makhmudov, (72), a well-known writer from Uzbekistan, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in August 1999 on charges of attempting to violently overthrow the constitutional order, establishing prohibited public and religious organizations and setting up a criminal group. He has always denied the charges and said that he was tortured in pre-trial detention in order to force him to “confess” to the charges. On 5 March 2013 Mamadali Makhmudov was informed that the prosecutor had signed an indictment against him for allegedly violating prison rules a total of 31 times.

According to Mamadali Makhmudov he had not been previously informed by the prison authorities about any violation that he had committed.

He is now facing a new prison term of up to five years based on Article 221 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (“disobedience to legitimate orders of administration of institution of execution of penalty”). Relatives of Mamadali Makhmudov have been trying to visit him in prison since February 2013. The last visit took place on 14 November 2012 when his daughter visited him in a prison hospital in Tashkent, where he was transferred on 26 October 2012. Mamadali Makhmudov is suffering from tuberculosis, high blood pressure and general weakness.

Amnesty International’s research shows that certain categories of prisoners, such as human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience, government critics and individuals convicted of membership of Islamist parties and groups or Islamic movements banned in Uzbekistan, are often subject to severe punishment regimes in prisons where they serve their sentences, and have their sentences extended for long periods even for alleged minor infractions of the prison rules. Amnesty International is concerned that the initiation of the new criminal case against Mamadali Makhmudov is illustrative of a long-standing pattern of harassment of civil society activists and human rights defenders by the Uzbekistani authorities.

Systematically tortured
On 11 February 2013 Mamadali Makhmudov’s son went to visit him in a prison colony in Chirchik, eastern Uzbekistan, where Mamadali Makhmudov had been serving his prison term since June 2001; however he was not allowed to see his father and the prison authorities refused to accept the parcels of medicine and food that he had brought along. Later that day Mamadali Makhmudov’s family found out that he had been transferred to a prison in Tashkent, where people awaiting trial or those awaiting a transfer to a prison post-conviction are held. On 12 February 2013 his daughter tried to visit him in this prison in Tashkent, but the meeting did not take place. She was able to give medicine to the prison personnel to pass to her father.

Mamadali Makhmudov was sentenced for his alleged participation in a series of explosions in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, in February 1999 which the authorities described as an assassination attempt on President Islam Karimov. President Islam Karimov swiftly blamed the explosions in Tashkent on “Islamist extremists” and others who wished to undermine the government. Mamadali Makhmudov was held incommunicado in pre-trial detention for almost three months in 1999.

In a written statement Mamadali Makhmudov described how he had been systematically tortured during that time by, among other things, being constantly beaten; having his hands and feet burned; having needles stuck under his nails; being suspended by his hands tied behind his back; having a gas mask put over his face with the air supply turned off; and being threatened with rape and death. In addition, he was told that his wife and children had been taken into detention and that they would be raped in front of him if he did not confess on film.

From April until July 2000, Mamadali Makhmudov spent time in Jaslyk prison camp in the Northern Karakalpakstan region. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s February 2003 report on Uzbekistan included the recommendation to “…give urgent consideration to closing Jaslyk colony, which by its very location creates conditions of detention amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment for both its inmates and their relatives…”. Mamadali Makhmudov wrote in a letter about how he had been subjected to constant beatings while in Jaslyk and that he lost 24 kilograms. Human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have reported dozens of deaths in custody in suspicious circumstances since Yaslik was opened in 1999.

Amnesty International’s research shows that certain categories of prisoners are often put in punishment cells, which have been described by former prisoners as small rooms (often windowless and made of concrete) with no heating, no natural light or ventilation and no room for a bed. Prisoners are often denied adequate medical care and are forced to work long hours. They often have to do physically demanding manual labour — such as building work or making bricks — with basic tools, inadequate clothing, and little food and water. Former prisoners report that they were frequently beaten by prison guards and other prisoners.

• View Amnesty International’s appeal


For further details please contact Emma Wadsworth-Jones at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 • email: emma DOT wadsworth-jones AT pen-international DOT org


Rapid Action Network, 9 March 2012:
News: Uzbekistan – Latest Amnesty Excludes Imprisoned Writers

Home / News / Uzbekistan: Writer faces another prison term

Check Also

Israel: Court rejects Palestinian poet’s appeal to end house arrest

The Israeli court in Nazareth rejected Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour’s appeal to end her strict house arrest as she awaits a final verdict on her case.