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Uzbek journalist risking deportation quits Moscow for Germany

February 15, 2018

A journalist at Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta left Thursday for Germany after risking deportation to his native Uzbekistan where he said he had endured torture, the newspaper’s editor told AFP.

Khudoberdi Nurmatov — who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz — “is in the plane on the runway and is set to fly out to Germany any minute now,” Novaya Gazeta’s editor Dmitry Muratov told AFP.

Earlier this month a Moscow court had ruled that the openly gay journalist could leave to a third country, not to ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, after a long-running immigration case that saw Nurmatov spend more than six months in a detention centre.

His lawyers said at the hearing that Nurmatov had already bought a ticket to Germany and had the necessary travel documents.

The journalist left on Thursday accompanied by Red Cross officials, lawyers and journalists, Muratov said, confirming that “all the formalities have been sorted out.”

He thanked Russian rights ombudswoman Tatiana Moskalkova for doing “a huge amount of work” to help the journalist.

Nurmatov arrived in Russia in 2011 and repeatedly tried to claim asylum.

He said he had endured torture in Uzbekistan at the hands of the security services for refusing to inform against his associates, according to Amnesty International.

He also said his sexual orientation would put him at risk of ill-treatment if he returned to Uzbekistan, Amnesty said.

Novaya Gazeta reported that Nurmatov fled the country to Russia in 2008 soon after agreeing to cooperate.

Nurmatov was arrested in Moscow last year and ordered to return to Uzbekistan for violating immigration laws. His deportation was postponed pending a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

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

Amnesty International said last year that Nurmatov faced a “real risk of persecution and torture” in Uzbekistan, where consensual gay sex between men is a criminal offence.

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