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Uzbek Prison Shows 'Impostor' To Red Cross

Solijon Abdurahmanov
Solijon Abdurahmanov
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been trying to arrange a visit with jailed Uzbek journalist Salijon Abdurahmanov for months, to no avail.

A former correspondent for RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and a contributor to Voice of America and, Abdurahmanov was sentenced in October 2008 to 10 years in prison for possession of marijuana and opium, charges that he denies.

On a previous occasion, prison officials allegedly took Abdurahmanov out of the prison and hid him elsewhere when ICRC officials showed up at the prison in Uzbekistan's Kashkadarya region.

But on the latest attempt, prison officials took subterfuge to a new level and presented an "impostor" to the ICRC, according to the journalist's son, Davron, reports.

"Father said that he was driven away in an unknown direction and a different prisoner was brought to the meeting instead, as if he were Salijon Abdurahmanov," Davron said.

ICRC representatives immediately established that it was someone else before them, the journalist himself told his son at a meeting.

The "fake" journalist said he was Salijon Abdurahmanov, but ICRC members refused to believe him, saying that they had seen a photo of the journalist and have their own view of him.

When he was arrested in 2008, reportedly on his way to Tashkent to attend an international seminar on media freedom, the police had brought a film crew to document the discovery of the narcotics in the trunk of his car.

Prior to that, the Uzbek authorities had charged him with drug possession and searched his home computer for "antigovernment" material. When medical tests failed to find drugs in his system, the authorities moved on to charges of selling drugs and the subsequent search of his car.

Abdurahmanov has campaigned for the independence of the autonomous Karakalpakstan region south of the Aral Sea.

His imprisonment has been condemned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others.

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