The BBC’s Usmonov is released!
Editor’s note: Tajik authorities have released BBC journalist Urunboy Usmonov from custody. “The international community’s appeal have been heard,” writes neweurasia’s Tomyris, “and though Usmonov’s release is under an agreement not to leave the country, neweurasia is thrilled that he is at least released alas, but still nonetheless regrets to learn that he still may face unjust criminal prosecution.”
“They told Urunboy Usmonov’s family to go and pick him up outside the detention centre.” – BBC
neweurasia joined the international community last month in insisting that Tajik authorities immediately release journalist Urunboy Usmonov, who was accused of being a member of the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Then today, exactly one month and a day after his arrest, AFP has reported that he has been released from custody. AFP goes on to say:
“Urunboi Usmonov still faces criminal prosecution, but was released from prison Thursday after the General Prosecutor ruled that he was eligible for bail.”
neweurasia‘s managing editor, Schwartz, has been in contact with BBC Central Asia. He reports that they are overjoyed but cautious:
“A normally quite literate group are responding to my e-mails with multiple exclamation points and enthusiastic typos. It’s really nice to see them in this mood. Nevertheless, they point out that his release doesn’t mean he’s no longer face charges, but that at least he’ll be with his family again and hopefully have easier access to legal resources.”
Indeed, ASIA–Plus has quoted Tajikistan’s Prosecutor-General Sherkhon Salimzoda as saying:
“Prosecutors have studied criminal proceedings instituted against Usmonov and have come to a conclusion that investigation may be continued without holding the suspect in custody.”
Yesterday, on the occasion of Usmonov’s dreadful one-month anniversary in detention, BBC proved to remain firm in its stance that the Tajik journalist is not now nor ever was involved in the Islamic group, but rather a professional good at his job:
“We believe that meetings and interviews with people representing all shades of opinion are part of the work of any BBC journalist.”
Regarding Usmonov’s case, on July 13th Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said:
“The fact that a ‘summary’ of the prosecution case has been sent to President Emomali Rakhmon suggests that all the appeals by journalists and the international community have been noted.”
When I began writing this post, I expected to be repeating the somber remarks of the BBC and the RSF’s hopes. It came as a shock but also a relief when news of Usmonov’s release reached me.
The international community’s appeal have been heard, and though Usmonov’s release is under an agreement not to leave the country, neweurasia is thrilled that he is at least released alas, but still nonetheless regrets to learn that he still may face unjust criminal prosecution.
Update, Friday 15 July, 2011: Yesterday I was invited to participate in BBC’s World Have Your Say radio show. It was really interesting and also somehow a relief to hear Usmonov’s own voice, rather than only reading it on a computer screen. I was all the more honored because this was his first interview since leaving detention, and struck to be hearing the “inside story”-style details of his ordeal. As for my own contribution to the show, well, the voice quality on my phone may have been a bit too weak, so my comments came out mumbled, but oh well! :-)
On behalf of neweurasia, I want to thank the BBC for this opportunity and wish Usmonov the best in his fight. His story is a clear symbol of how freedom of the press and the free flow of information must be respected, even, or especially, in strict regimes like Tajikistan. neweurasia offers its support to Usmonov in anyway we can!