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Kadyr Yusupov fell foul of the Uzbek authorities upon being interviewed by the State Security Service in the hospital after he tried to commit suicide in 2018.

An international rights group is expressing concern about the condition of former Uzbek diplomat Kadyr Yusupov -- who activists say was wrongly convicted -- after reports he was beaten while in prison and refused treatment afterward.

Yusupov is currently in Prison Colony No. 4 in the city of Navoi, serving a sentence of 5 1/2 years after being convicted of treason at a closed trial in January 2020.

Yusupov, 69, suffers from schizophrenia and the circumstances surrounding his alleged confession and the trial process against him have been questioned by his family and international rights organizations.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) said Yusupov was beaten by a fellow prisoner on September 2021 and again in October when he complained about another inmate and, “in retaliation, the latter violently beat Yusupov in front of the other prisoners.”

Yusupov believes he sustained a concussion in the attack and has many bruises on his body.

Yusupov’s son, Babur, spoke with RFE/RL and said a doctor later examined Yusupov and said there was no evidence of a concussion, though he continues to suffer from headaches since the assault.

Yusupov also lost two teeth in the attack, but his son said prison officials have so far not allowed Yusupov to be temporarily transferred to a facility that provides dental treatment.

Yusupov was a career diplomat who served in Uzbekistan’s diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, including international organizations based in Vienna, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), until he retired in 2009.

On the morning of December 3, 2018, Yusupov tried to kill himself by jumping onto the tracks in a Tashkent metro station as a train was entering

.He was taken to the hospital and was treated for his injuries.

Authorities did not notify the family about the incident until that evening.

Family members arrived at the hospital just before two employees of the State Security Service (SGB).

'A Case Riddled With Rights Violations'

The two questioned Yusupov as he lay in his hospital bed with broken ribs and a concussion without any family members present. After an hour they emerged from the room and told the family that Yusupov had confessed to spying for “the West.”

Security agents came to the hospital on December 10 and took Yusupov into custody without informing his family.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, “Security service officials handling the case refused to allow Yusupov’s attorney or family members to meet with him for nearly five months after his arrest and pressured Yusupov to reject his attorney’s representation.”

When a lawyer was finally able to meet with Yusupov, he had to sign a confidentially document promising not to disclose any details of the case.

HRW added that “between December 2018 and late March 2019, two State Security Service officers entered his cell two or three times each day and threatened that if he did not admit his guilt they would rape him with a rubber baton, rape his wife and daughter, and arrest his two sons, including a son who lives abroad, by means of extradition.”

The AHRCA -- which is registered in France -- said Yusupov had written two complaints; one on October 17 to the Navoi regional prosecutor in connection with the prisoner who assaulted him in October and a second one to a regional prosecutor on October 29.

AHRCA said it was unclear if the first complaint was even forwarded by the prison administration to the prosecutor’s office.

Steve Swerdlow (file photo)
Steve Swerdlow (file photo)

Steve Swerdlow, a human rights lawyer and associate professor at the University of Southern California who has years of experience in Central Asia, told RFE/RL:

“What is troubling here is that a 69-year-old man in such obviously poor physical and mental health and with a case so riddled with human rights violations would be kept so long in these conditions and would be subjected to violence in prison after repeated calls for his freedom.”

Yusupov asked in 2020 for better working conditions for all prisoners and also that prisoners who wished to observe Ramadan be allowed to do so.

Prison officials moved Yusupov to a what the AHRCA described as a “punishment cell" and "subjected him to two weeks’ solitary confinement.”

Babur Yusupov (file photo)
Babur Yusupov (file photo)

Babur Yusupov said a solitary confinement cell at the Navoi prison is 2 square meters by 1.5 square meters and was overrun with mice, fleas, and other vermin.

Babur added that the guards came and took away his father’s mattress during the day, so he did not have a place to lie down.

Yusupov’s case was included in a recently released report from the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which was authored by Swerdlow.

The USCIRF report questioned “the ongoing imprisonment of ex-diplomat Kadyr Yusupov, arrested on politically motivated treason charges” and said it considered Yusupov a “religious prisoner of concern.”

“While Yusupov was not imprisoned on religious grounds, prison officials retaliated against him for daring to raise the rights of his fellow religious prisoners to observe the fast during Ramadan earlier in 2020," said Swerdlow. "For this he was cruelly placed in solitary confinement.”

'A New Low'

In May 2021, the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released its findings on Yusupov’s case, saying he had not been given the right to a fair trial and that his pretrial detention was also unfair.

The Working Group issued an opinion on June 4, 2021, that cited numerous violations in the detention, trial process, and incarceration of Yusupov.

The opinion called on the Uzbek government to “take urgent action to ensure [the] immediate release of Mr. Yusupov” and “to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.”

It is unlikely that either of those things will be done.

Yusupov’s situation in prison is following an unhappy and all-too-familiar pattern in Uzbekistan.

An undated photo of Kadyr Yusupov (center) and his family.
An undated photo of Kadyr Yusupov (center) and his family.

His requests for better working conditions and allowing prisoners to observe Ramadan were also reason for prison authorities to reject Yusupov’s request to be transferred to an open prison colony where conditions are better.

His second request in March 2021 for such a transfer was refused because, according to the AHRCA, Yusupov made “an authorized telephone call to his family at ‘the wrong time.’”

Officials rejected Yusupov’s third request in October 2021, saying the previous reason for not granting the transfer was still in effect.

One prison official reportedly told Yusupov he should stop applying for a transfer as it is unlikely to happen.

Babur Yusupov said prison officials have combined family visits with visits by Yusupov’s lawyer, Allan Pashkovsky, meaning the family and the attorney have to divide the time they have with him during visits.

He added that Pashkovsky has attempted to telephone his client at the prison but officials do not allow the calls to go through.

“The list of organizations calling for Kadyr Yusupov’s immediate and unconditional release has been piling up for years, and includes several United Nations bodies," said Swerdlow. "But this new despicable development is a new low."

Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Berdymukhammedov takes part in celebrations for the national Turkmen Horse Day and the Turkmen Shepherd Dog Day near Ashgabat on April 25.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov sent his only son, Serdar, to Glasgow to represent Turkmenistan at the COP26 world climate conference.

Serdar is seemingly being groomed to take over from his father one day, so he has been making a lot of trips recently representing Turkmenistan. He was even an honorary coach of Turkmenistan's Olympic team in Tokyo this summer.

One might not think that Turkmenistan, a desert country with a population of some 5 million, would have a big impact on the climate.

But it actually does, because it's one of the largest emitters of methane gas in the world.

And according to the pro-Turkmen government website Business.com.tm, Serdar got right down to it, dedicating his speech at the conference to his country's methane emissions.

Serdar said on November 3 that his country paid special attention to reducing its methane emissions and welcomes the Global Methane Pledge, which he said Turkmenistan was interested in "studying."

Outsized Impact

For most of the delegates at the conference that statement probably did not mean much, but according to an October 19 report by Bloomberg: "In 2020, the International Energy Agency estimates that [Turkmenistan’s] overall methane emissions from oil and gas were behind only Russia and the U.S., both of which have significantly larger energy industries and populations."

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov visits the Ahalteke Equestrian Complex with Serdar in June.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov visits the Ahalteke Equestrian Complex with Serdar in June.

The report referred to data from the French firm Kayrros that indicated just how bad Turkmenistan's methane-gas problem is.

Kayrros uses satellites to monitor leaks from fossil-fuel facilities around the world. According to the Bloomberg report, Kayrros found that "of the 50 most severe methane releases at onshore oil and gas operations analyzed since 2019 by [Kayrros], Turkmenistan accounted for 31 of them."

Back in Glasgow, the Turkmen heir apparent said Turkmenistan "in the medium term plans to achieve zero growth of greenhouse emissions, starting in 2030," and he added, "in the long term -- annual significant reductions in emissions."

"Zero growth" on existing outputs that are already the third-worst in the world?

And there were no details about how much of a significant reduction will be made from current emission levels.

The Bloomberg report noted that just one leak at the Korpeje natural-gas field in Turkmenistan "had a climate impact roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars in Arizona."

Deny Everything

Serdar officially went to Glasgow as the deputy chairman of Turkmenistan's ministerial cabinet, which means he was speaking on behalf of the government when he made the pledges about methane reductions.

That is the same Turkmen government that continues to deny there has ever been even a single case of coronavirus in the country, despite heavy evidence to the contrary.

It is also the same Turkmen government that denies there are food shortages and mass unemployment in the country.

And the same Turkmen government that has still not acknowledged any methane leaks in the country and never did admit to Turkmenistan's oil industry polluting the Caspian Sea.

The Global Methane Pledge that Serdar Berdymukhammedov said his country was interested in "studying" is an initiative approved at this conference in Glasgow to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent before 2030.

It was signed by 103 countries -- but not by Turkmenistan.

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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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