Fergana-based human rights activist arrested for smugglers

Courageous human rights defender Nematjon Siddikov has been in detention since 6 February
The house of Nematjon Siddikov in the town of Buvayda in Fergana Region has been raided while he himself has been put behind the bars for exposing smugglers on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.

Since 6 February, Fergana-based human rights activist Nematjon Siddikov has been under arrested. His relatives have learnt that he is kept in a detention centre in the town of Kokand.

His colleagues think his arrest was predictable. Nematjon’s video and photo materials about everyday smuggling on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border outraged smugglers and authorities protecting them.

On 2 February, Siddikov’s materials were made public by Elena Urlayeva, the leader of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (HRAU).

The report said a real mafia is involved smuggling in Fergana District of Uzbek Fergana Region.

Cheap goods from China are transported from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan and pipes, saltpetre and carbamide are carried back to Kyrgyzstan, bypassing the customs house.

“Every day almost a thousand of cars carry illegal goods therefore all markets in Fergana Region are clogged with China-originated goods,” Siddikov said.

It was established during a monitoring that it was the regional administration, the prosecutor’s office, interior bodies and the National Security Service who protected criminals.

Siddikov, in addition to information about the “technology” of smuggling goods across the border and smuggling “tariffs”, gave Urlayeva photopictures and tens of telephone numbers of smugglers.

Immediate revenge

On 3 February the HRAU distributed Siddikov’s report about the scale of smuggling activity on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border.

Smugglers' warehouse; photo by Nematjon Siddikov
This was found interesting by the Radio BBC Uzbek Service, which broadcast the interview with the human rights activist.

After this smuggling on the border was prevented, but Siddikov himself faced only troubles.

On the evening of 5 February, “about 20-25” smugglers, outraged by the loss of their job, gathered outside the human rights defender’s home, said Siddikov’s colleague, Shuhrat Rustamov.

Smugglers attacked on Siddikov and his sons, beat them up, but police, no matter how many times relatives of the victims called them, have not come to help.

The following day, three men appeared outside Siddikov’s house and started throwing stones on the windows of his house, which exhausted the human rights defender’s patience and he started chasing them…

Guess who is guilty

Police have only arrested Siddikov by now. He is accused of “disorderly conduct”.

Rustamov believes that there are also law-enforcement bodies behind the revenge against the human rights defender. Otherwise, how come smugglers had his home address and why the two-day long pogrom of Siddikov’s home ended in his being arrested?

Pipes ready for shipment to Kyrgyzstan; photo by Nematjon Siddikov
Last year too, Siddikov gave publicity to plantations of opium and hemp, after which plantations were destroyed and the human rights defender’s family had problems because drug dealers started taking vengeance.

According to Rustamov, Siddikov spited so badly the mafia, which is “covered” by local law-enforcement bodies, that forensic and police reprisal against him will be exemplary.

“But we will stand up for our activist and protect him with every legal method,” Urlayeva said.