Uzbekistan, rich in oil, has a lamentable human rights record despite being used by the west as a base for war in Afghanistan. Muhammad Bekzhon, a journalist on the newspaper Erk, banned in 1994, and brother of the exiled opposition leader Muhammad Salih, was arrested in March 1999 together with the author Mamadali Makhmudov and Yusif Ruzimuradov, and accused of involvement in a series of explosions in Tashkent. Bekzhon is serving a 15-year sentence in barbaric conditions and has been tortured under interrogation; his relatives are alarmed by his state of health. He is currently confined in a prison hospital with the tuberculosis that he contracted after spending months on end in damp cellars. Despite hopes of release, Bekzhon has been ignored in amnesties. He has been told repeatedly that his fate is in the hands of President Islam Karimov alone, to whom appeals should be sent:
President Islam Karimov
70000 g Tashkent
Fax: 00 998 71 139 5625.
Richard McKane, poet and translator, is deputy chair of English PEN's Writers in Prison Committee