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Russia postpones deporting journalist to Uzbekistan

August 8, 2017

A Russian court on Tuesday postponed the deportation of an independent journalist to repressive Uzbekistan pending a European Court of Human Rights ruling after the decision caused an international uproar.

However Moscow City Court ordered that the journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov be confined in a special detention centre for foreigners until the ECHR issues a ruling, RIA Novosti state news agency reported.

A Moscow district court last week ordered Nurmatov, who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz for Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, to be sent back to the ex-Soviet Central Asian country for violating immigration laws.

His lawyer said that Nurmatov tried to slash his wrists with a pen after the decision and rights group Amnesty International — which called Nurmatov “openly gay” — demanded Russia overturn the ruling to return him to a country where homosexuality is a crime.

The ECHR last week placed a ban on Nurmatov’s deportation until it had ruled on his case. His lawyers told Novaya Gazeta they plan to file a full complaint over his case to Strasbourg shortly, after which the international court could take six months to issue a ruling.

Nurmatov told journalists in court that he would face a “slow torturous death” in Uzbekistan, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Nurmatov arrived in Russia in 2011 and repeatedly tried to claim asylum saying he had endured torture in Uzbekistan, according to Amnesty International.

Russian authorities have refused to grant him asylum however, and accuse him of staying in Russia illegally, which is punishable by a fine and deportation. He was detained outside Novaya Gazeta’s offices on August 1.

The presidential rights council that advises President Vladimir Putin has called for Nurmatov to be granted Russian citizenship, since his mother and siblings already have it.

However Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov cautioned that Russia “cannot turn a blind eye to a number of violations” in comments on Nurmatov’s case to journalists.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.