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Russian court quashes deportation of gay Uzbek journalist

January 24, 2018

Russia’s supreme court on Wednesday quashed a lower court’s order to deport an independent journalist to repressive Uzbekistan, where he says he has been tortured by security services.

Khudoberdi Nurmatov, who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz for Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was arrested last year and ordered to return to the ex-Soviet Central Asian country for violating immigration laws.

But the Supreme Court ruled his arguments at the earlier hearing did not receive due legal assessment and his case would have to be tried again, according to an online copy of the ruling.

“We are pleased with this decision, although it is clear Ali Feruz should not have spent a single day behind bars,” said Amnesty International’s acting Russia director Ivan Kondratenko.

“We hope that Ali will be freed very soon and he will no longer be threatened with deportation to a country where he is at risk of torture,” he added.

Nurmatov, who is gay, tried to slash his wrists with a pen after the initial ruling in August that he be deported to a country where homosexuality is a crime.

He had said in court he would face “a slow torturous death” in Uzbekistan.

Nurmatov arrived in Russia in 2011 and repeatedly tried to claim asylum saying he had endured torture in Uzbekistan at the hands of the security services, who tried to force him to become an informer, according to Amnesty.

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.

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.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has previously 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.