Uzbek journalist and human rights activist Jamshid Karimov has been released after five years’ incarceration in a psychiatric hospital.
“Jamshid Karimov was released on November 6 for Qurbon Khait [Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha],” said Bakhtiyor Hamroev of the Uzbek Human Right Society’s branch in Jizak region, where Karimov lives. “It is most probably a consequence of pledges given by the Uzbek authorities to [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton when she visited Tashkent [on October 22].”
Karimov is now at his home in Jizak.
The journalist is a nephew of Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov, but this afforded him no protection when he annoyed the government by writing for media outlets including IWPR, Uznews.net, and Fergana.ru, and engaging in human rights work.
Following the violence in Andijan in May 2005, in which Uzbek security forces shot down hundreds of demonstrators, Karimov was among the many journalists, opposition members and human rights defenders, as well as eyewitnesses to the shootings and relatives of victims, caught up in a massive clampdown.
Human rights groups in Uzbekistan and abroad said the case against Karimov was politically motivated.
Initially ordered to undergo six months of psychiatric treatment in a closed wing of the Samarkand psychiatric hospital, Karimov continued being forcibly detained without any formal paperwork being issued to justify this, local rights activists say.
Yelena Urlaeva, head of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, says Karimov has suffered serious damage to his health because of the use of strong psychotropic drugs.
The Soviet-era practice of misusing psychiatric medicine to punish dissidents has survived in post-independence Uzbekistan. Urlaeva was herself forcibly committed more than once, and says several other members of her group have suffered the same treatment since 2000.
The threat of enforced psychiatric treatment is also used to intimidate and silence people if they complain about the authorities too much, she added.
“Treatment in Uzbek psychiatric hospitals is extremely harsh,” Urlaeva said.
This article was produced as part of IWPR’s News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.