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Uzbek Rights Activist Convicted Of Defamation

Surat Ikramov

Surat Ikramov

A leading human rights activist in Uzbekistan has been convicted of defamation and fined, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Surat Ikramov, the leader of the Human Rights Initiative Group of Uzbekistan, was convicted of slander and defamation by a Tashkent court on September 28.

The court fined him 100,000 soms ($62) in compensation and ordered him to publish a disclaimer on a report he published in 2007. Ikramov told RFE/RL he will appeal the court ruling.

The report deemed defamatory was related to the mysterious death of pop singer Dilnura Qodirjonova, who was reported to have died of a heart attack in 2007.

But Qodirjonova's mother, Oktyabrkhon Yusupova, told Ikromov's rights group and other nongovernmental organizations that her daughter had been killed by Jamshid Matlyubov, a police officer and brother of Interior Minister Bakhodir Matlyubov.

Human Rights Initiative Group of Uzbekistan and the Ezgulik rights group included the mother's version of Qodirjonova's death in their published reports, writing that Bakhodir Matlyubov was Qodirjonova's lover and was directly involved in her death.

In 2009, one Rena Matmurodova, an alleged babysitter for Qodirjonova's child, charged that the rights groups had slandered her and demanded 15 million soms ($7,000) in compensation -- despite the fact that her name was not mentioned in the rights groups' reports.

Ikramov told RFE/RL that the investigation into the defamation charges was controlled by top officials in the Interior Ministry.

"I am sure that Jamshid Matlyubov and his brother, Interior Minister Bakhodir Matlyubov, were behind this court decision," Ikramov said. "They have connections with the prosecutor's office, hence the leverage to pressure the court [to make this decision against me]."

Meanwhile, another defamation trial began on September 29 against the Ezgulik rights group. Ezgulik also published a report in 2008 and a press release in 2009 about Qodirjonova's "mysterious death."

The group was already convicted earlier this year of slander and defamation and ordered to pay 200,000 soms to Matmurodova and publish a disclaimer over its 2008 report.

Now the rights group is being tried on the same charges for the 2009 press release on Qodirjonova's death.

Ezgulik head Vasila Inoyatova told RFE/RL that the conviction and new charges are examples of "total lawlessness" and promised to raise the issue during an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference in Warsaw that she will participate in later this week.

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