On July 31, Amnesty International declared Uzbek journalist and human rights activist Solijon Abdurahmanov
a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for carrying out his human rights activities and exercising his right to freedom of expression, and calls for him to be released from detention immediately and unconditionally."
Abdurahmanov was detained in his native Nukus in western Uzbekistan on June 7 and charged with possession of illegal drugs. Police then raided his home and searched his computer for "antigovernment" material. But according to the Committee to Protect Journalists
, after medical tests failed to substantiate the charges, he was subsequently charged on August 2 with the more serious crime of possession of illegal narcotics with intent to sell. While the initial charges carried a penalty of five years 'imprisonment, Abdurahmanov now faces a potential 20-year sentence.
An RFE/RL correspondent until 2005, Solijon Abdurahmanov is an advocate of independence
for the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, a region south of the Aral Sea.
In June, RFE/RL President Jeff Gedmin reacted to Abdurahmanov's case, saying, "This is disturbing news, although I'm sad to say it is not surprising...Uzbekistan has one of the worst records in the world regarding press freedom. If President Islam Karimov is eager to rehabilitate his country's reputation, he should stop treating free speech as a criminal offense and let Abdurahmanov and nearly 20 other journalists and human rights defenders out of prison immediately."