The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was relieved to learn that Uzbek critical journalist Yusuf Rozimurodov has been released from prison in February.
Rozimurodov has spent 19 years behind bars on sedition charges, holding the longest-known prison term served by a journalist. He was released on 22 February from a penal colony in the town of Chirchik, near the capital Tashkent, and returned to his home village in the Qashqadaryo region.
Rozimurodov, today 54, was an active member of the opposition party Erk (Freedom) and wrote for the party newspaper. He was arrested in 1999, shortly after explosions in Tashkent which officials claimed were an attempt of assassination on the life of then-President Islam Karimov. The original sentence of 15 years found him guilty of plotting to kill the president and change the country´s constitutional order as well as creating a criminal group. The prison term was later prolonged.
Since Karimov´s death in 2016, his successor president Shavkat Mirziyoev has gradually agreed to release some political prisoners.
“We are relieved to learn that Yusuf Rozimurodov was finally set free, however the news cannot bring us any joy” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “After serving the longest sentence a journalist has had to face so far in Uzbekistan, he is released along with the unspoken realization that his imprisonment was absurd.” Vujovic added.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe.