Blog: My son-in-law, the prisoner of conscience

People are taking part  in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights action this week by writing letters and signing petitions to show solidarity with individuals who suffer human right abuses. Talib Yakubov is the father-in-law of prisoner of conscience Azam Farmonov, who has been detained in Uzbekistan since 2006 after he and Alisher Karamatov defended the rights of local farmers. Talib Yakubov is also the Vice President of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan and now resides in France. By Talib Yakubov I was involved in the case of Azam Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov. Unfortunately, the judge of Yangier city court illegally dismissed me from further participation in court proceedings. The last time we heard about Alisher Karamatov was almost one year ago, when he was transferred to a prison hospital in Tashkent because of severe pulmonary tuberculosis. He was tortured even in prison hospital: he was forced to stand for several hours in the freezing cold for refusing to sign some documents. At the moment he is in Sangorod prison. Azam Farmonov is detained in Yaslik prison camp. His wife Ozoda Yakubova (my daughter) and two little children visit him every three months. The second child was born a week after his father’s arrest and their first meeting was in prison. In the beginning, prison officers were extremely hostile to Azam Farmonov. He was often subjected to torture and humiliation. In exchange for his freedom they demanded that he: 1) testify against the head of HRSU – me; 2) divorce his wife (my daughter) and 3) give up his human rights activities after release from prison. In Uzbekistani prisons, pressure to get a divorce is often put on human rights defenders, journalists and representatives of opposition organizations (both secular and religious) in order to break up their families and their beliefs. According to my daughter, this year prison authorities left Azam Farmanov in relative peace. Torture and abuse had almost disappeared, food and medical care had improved and she encountered no obstacles in visiting him. We don’t know whether those changes are permanent or temporary. Sometimes before some political events, for example before elections, the authorities give the order to soften the regime in prisons and improve conditions of detention. In 2008 the Uzbekistan government initiated a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During this period conditions in all prisons were improved. However, after the celebration everything returned to normal. The trial of Azam Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov was held on 16 June 2006. I am the only person who knows the case from the inside. Therefore, on 12 July 2006 a criminal case was opened against me. I realized that for my safety and in order to continue human rights work, I had to leave the country. At that time nine members of HRSU were in prison (there are now 11). I was accepted by France. On 21 October 2008 in Angers Town Hall, HRSU was officially registered for the first time in its history.