Muhammad Bekjanov

Muhammad Bekzhanov is one of the world’s longest held journalists. Until he had to flee abroad in 1994, he edited Erk (Freedom), a newspaper that was President Islam Karimov’s leading media critic. After the government blaming a series of bombings in Tashkent in 1999 on pro-democracy groups as well as armed Islamists, it got the Ukrainian authorities to extradite him back to Uzbekistan, where he was tortured into signing a “confession” and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. When an Islamist militant said he was tortured into implicating Bekzhanov, the authorities “reduced” Bekzhanov’s jail term to 13 years. But in January 2012, just days before he was due to be freed, he was given another four years and eight months in jail on a charge of disobeying prison officials. According to recent reports, he is now in a grim prison in the southern city of Kasan, deaf in one ear as a result of mistreatment and suffering from tuberculosis.

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