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Exiled Uzbek Journalist 'Unable To Obtain Kazakh Entry Visa'

Prison photo of Uzbek journalist Ulugbek Khaidarov in 2006
Prison photo of Uzbek journalist Ulugbek Khaidarov in 2006
An Uzbek journalist who lives as a political refugee in Canada has complained that he is unable to obtain an entry visa to Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Ulugbek Khaidarov told RFE/RL last week about his difficulties obtaining a visa, and the Kazakh Foreign Ministry promised RFE/RL to look into the issue on March 4, but to date there has been no resolution.

Khaidarov said he has visited Kazakhstan three times since he emigrated to Canada in 2007, and that after his Uzbek passport expired, he obtained a Canadian travel document that substitutes as a passport for permanent residents of Canada who wish to travel abroad.

He said the travel agent who previously helped him to obtain a visa at the Kazakh Embassy in Canada told him that embassy officials refused to issue him an entry visa as his travel document is not the national Uzbek passport.

But Serik Bulatkulov, the Kazakh consul in Calgary, told Khaidarov by phone that he has never seen Khaidarov's travel document. Kulov added that the consulate usually returns travel documents or passports to their owners with a written explanation of why the visa was refused.

On March 4, Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilyas Omarov told RFE/RL that anyone who uses a travel document instead of his or her national passport can easily obtain a Kazakh entry visa.

Omarov asked RFE/RL to give him Khaidarov's full name and the place where his application for a Kazakh entry visa was rejected. After an RFE/RL correspondent provided him with the details, Omarov promised to investigate and inform RFE/RL what he found out, but he has not yet done so.

Rozlana Taukina, chairwoman of the Almaty-based NGO Journalists in Trouble, told RFE/RL that Khaidarov approached her organization for help in obtaining a Kazakh entry visa. She said the Kazakh authorities' refusal to grant Khaidarov a visa might be politically motivated or connected with Khaidarov's journalistic activities and the pre-term Kazakh presidential election on April 3.

Taukina added that it is impossible for an Uzbek citizen living abroad as a refugee to prolong his or her expired Uzbek passport or to obtain a new one at an Uzbek embassy or consulate abroad. She said it is very likely that Kazakh and Uzbek authorities have an agreement with regard to Uzbek refugees, and that is why Kazakh officials hesitate to grant them entry visas.

Khaidarov used to work at the office of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting in Tashkent. He was arrested by Uzbek police on September 14, 2006, for alleged extortion and sentenced on October 5 to six years in jail. He was released one month later following an international campaign on his behalf by human rights organizations.

He later escaped to Kazakhstan and obtained refugee status at the UN office in Almaty, from where he emigrated to Canada to take up permanent residence there.

Read more in Russian here