A Russian appeals court has halted the deportation of journalist Ali Feruz to Uzbekistan, where rights groups fear he could face torture, imprisonment, or death at the hands of the authorities.
The Moscow City Court ruled on August 8 that Feruz, a reporter for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, cannot be deported until the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) examines his appeal against the ruling.
Speaking in the courtroom ahead of the ruling, Feruz told the BBC that he faces a “long, slow death” if he is deported to Uzbekistan.
Feruz, whose real name is Hudoberdi Nurmatov, was ordered deported by a lower Moscow court on August 1 over alleged violations of immigration law. The ECHR issued an order on August 4 barring his transfer to Uzbekistan.
Feruz says he has the right to remain in Russia pending a decision on his application for asylum.
A Russian native whose mother and two siblings are Russian citizens, Feruz left Russia at the age of 17 and accepted Uzbek citizenship. He fled the Central Asian country in 2008 after allegedly being tortured for two days by the Uzbek security forces.
Under the Moscow City Court ruling, Feruz is to remain in a holding center for foreigners while awaiting the resolution of his case.
Feruz said earlier that while being transferred to the holding center he was beaten and subjected to electric shocks by a guard.
Numerous Russian and international organizations have issued statements in support of Feruz, including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Russian Union of Journalists, the Russian presidential advisory council on human rights, and others.
A petition in support of Feruz on the website Change.org has picked up nearly 60,000 signatures.
His deportation would expose Russia to fierce criticism and set up a test for Uzbekistan's conduct under President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who has taken some steps to open the country up since he came to power after the death of autocratic longtime President Islam Karimov was announced in September.
In a statement on August 2, Human Rights Watch said that Mirziyoev "has promised reforms, but such endemic problems as torture and politically motivated detention have yet to be addressed."
"Russia’s obligations as a party to the Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights include ensuring that no one in Russian custody is forcibly sent to a place where they face a real risk of persecution, torture, or other serious human rights violations," the New York-based rights group said.