Defying calls from human rights activists, a court in Uzbekistan has sentenced Bukhara-based human rights activist Bobomurod Razzakov to four years in prison on charges his supporters say are fabricated.
On September 24, a court in Bukhara found Razzakov, 60, guilty of human trafficking, Human Rights Watch reports. The New York-based advocacy group says the charges were in retaliation for Razzakov’s human rights activities.
Human Rights Watch had earlier called on Uzbek authorities to immediately drop the case and unconditionally release Razzakov, the leader of the Bukhara branch of Uzbekistan's only registered independent human rights group, Ezgulik ("Mercy").
Uzbekistan often brings trumped-up charges of drug trafficking, rape and extortion against critics in what look like attempts to shut them up.
Razzakov's "prosecution fits a typical pattern of fabricated criminal charges brought to silence human rights defenders and should be dropped immediately," Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a September 14 statement.
A local woman accused Razzakov of forcing her into the custody of a person who pressed her into prostitution. Razzakov maintains that several days before his detention the woman asked him to help find a relative who had gone missing in Russia. His lawyer suggested that Uzbek security services had pressured her into bringing the charges against him, Human Rights Watch said.
This isn’t the first time a mysterious woman has appeared and brought sexual-harassment or rape charges against a government critic, only to have prosecutors hastily address her cause. On September 21, independent journalist Sergei Naumov was sentenced to 12 days in prison when a woman, shortly after he complained to friends of police harassment, accused him of grabbing her breasts on the street. In August, Hasan Choriyev, the 71-year-old father of an exiled opposition leader, was tried in secret in southern Kashkadarya Region after a 19-year-old woman accused him of rape. He was found guilty, UzNews reported, and sentenced to five years in prison.