Hopes were high that Uzbek writers who are political prisoners were to be included in an amnesty on 1 September. This was not to be. Mamadali Makhmudov, a writer in the traditional "dastan" style of epic verse, considered an Uzbek nationalist under the Soviet Union and a dissident after the collapse of communism, remains in the Chirchik Prison in Uzbekistan, in a deteriorating state of health. Makhmudov, who supported the political party of a fellow writer, Muhammad Salih (in exile since 1994), was arrested again shortly after bomb attacks on 16 February 1999 in Tashkent. He is now one of the writers and people who are victims of the worldwide anti-terrorism surge. Uzbekistan is a key country geopolitically, rich in gas and oil, and (like Turkey) is turning to the west. The conditions in Jaslyk ("the death camp"), which Makhmudov was in for two months with his fellow writer Mohamed Bekzhon, are some of the most barbarous ever, with deaths by beatings with truncheons and steel pipes. In the same way as pressure is being brought on Turkey to clean up its human rights act as it heads for Europe, intensive pressure should be put on the Uzbek authorities, especially as they have not implemented the amnesty.
Please write to:
President Islam Abduganievich
70000 g. Tashkent
Richard McKane is a poet and translator and deputy chair of PEN's Writers in Prison Committee