Uzbek authorities should immediately release and drop their criminal case against Uktam Pardaev, a prominent human rights activist arrested on November 16, 2015, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee said today:
Police arrested Pardaev, head of the Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, in his home in Jizzakh on charges of extortion and bribery, confiscating a camera, computer, several documents and flash drives. They also searched his brothers’ home. Pardaev, who faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty, was held incommunicado for four days in the Do’stlik district pre-trial detention facility without access to his lawyer and was unable to contact family members until his lawyer visited him on November 20.
Pardaev, 37, is known for his work uncovering local corruption and monitoring the forced labor of adults and children in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. Authorities have persecuted him for his peaceful work for years, denying him an exit visa from Uzbekistan on political grounds. In recent months, however, Pardaev had told diplomats and international organizations about local authorities’ increasing pressure on him in the form of constant surveillance and harassment.
“Pardaev has long campaigned against corruption and abuse of power in a region of Uzbekistan where many are afraid to speak out,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “His prosecution fits a typical pattern of fabricated criminal charges brought to silence human rights defenders and should be dropped immediately.”