Leader of the Erk opposition part, Muhammad Salikh, has said that the additional five-year prison sentence handed down to his brother by the Uzbek authorities will not divert the party from its struggle against the Karimov regime.
Muhammad Bekjan, Salikh’s brother and former editor of the Erk opposition newspaper, was sentenced to serve a further five years by the Kasan court in Kashkadarya on 24 January, just days before he was due to be released from prison having served a 13-year sentence.
Three fellow prisoners who testified against Bekjan to secure his conviction, appeared reluctant when speaking in court, witnesses say, as if they had been forced to testify. The prosecution claimed Bekjan had only recently begun to disobey prison rules.
A source familiar with Bekjan’s case told Uznews.net that the latest conviction and sentencing of the journalist is senseless.
“You could say Bekjan
|Where is the logic in this? I would obey all the rules for so many years, then would start being disobedient within the last month?"|
|Muhammad Bekjan at his sentencing in Kasan|
was a model prisoner. In all his 13 years in prison he never committed a single disciplinary offence,” the source said.
The prisoner himself said, “Where is the logic in this? I would obey all the rules for so many years, then would start being disobedient within the last month?”
Muhammad Salikh, Bekjan’s brother, is dismayed at the new sentence. By leaving Bekjan in jail, he says, the Uzbek authorities are continuing to perpetrate evil and violence against those who oppose them.
“Karimov [the Uzbek President], through his actions, is trying to break the will of those who care about the fate of the people, and he wants to obstruct their fight for freedom,” Salikh says.
Many human rights activists in Uzbekistan are convinced that Muhammad Bekjan, and two of his brothers Kamil and Rashid, were imprisoned because of their brother Muhammad Salikh’s opposition activity. But Salikh says he will not make the victimization of his relatives by the
|Muhammad Bekjan in 2003; photo: Uznews.net|
regime stand in the way of his fight.
“My brother’s plight has no relevance to my renunciation of politics. I will not give up my fight. I will continue my work until Karimov’s brutal regime has fallen,” Salikh said.
The leader of the Committee for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience, Bakhodyr Namazov, also believes that the latest conviction of Bekjan is unjust, and says that the penal system in Uzbekistan could not be said to be doing its job.
“If you cannot rehabilitate a man in 15 years, then so-called ‘reform institutions’ should close down or reform themselves,” the human rights activist claims.
Munozhat Parpieva, Bakjan’s lawyer, says that she is preparing an appeal on behalf of her client.
Muhammad Bekjan was sentenced to 15 years in jail in August 1999 for organising terrorist acts in Tashkent in February 1999. His brothers Rashid and Kamil Bekjanov were also imprisoned at the same time.
In 2003, Muhammad Bekjan’s prison term was shortened as part of a prisoner amnesty. Kamil Bejanov was freed under the same amnesty and in March 2011, Rashid Bekjanov was released.