Akzam TurgunovUzbekistan

Akzam Turgunov, 62, is an Uzbek human rights activist and political opposition leader who has been wrongly detained in Uzbekistan since 2008 on extortion charges. Prior to his detention, Mr. Turgunov was a leading figure in the human-rights and opposition movements in Uzbekistan. Mr. Turgunov is married and the father of one son.

Mr. Turgunov founded and served as Chairman of Mazlum (“The Oppressed”), a human-rights organization in Tashkent that advocates on behalf of prisoners of conscience and protests against the use of torture. He also served as Director of the Tashkent section of Erk (“Freedom”), a political opposition party.

Mr. Turgunov was previously the victim of a politically motivated arrest. After attempting to organize a neighborhood committee to explore private sector alternatives to government services, he was arrested and convicted in 1998 on charges of abuse of office and official negligence. Human Rights Watch characterized this prosecution as politically motivated. In 2000, Mr. Turgunov was granted amnesty and release, though he and his family continued to be subject to intimidation and harassment.

Prior to his most recent detention, Mr. Turgunov worked as an activist and public advocate in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. During this time, he worked closely with Human Rights Watch, which observed and documented a negative government reaction to his efforts. His grant-funded work as a lay public defender in the region focused on investigating corruption by local officials, including a case involving police in the town of Manget.

Mr. Turgunov was arrested on extortion charges in Manget on July 11, 2008, by the very police department he was investigating for corruption. The charges appear fabricated to conceal a political motive for imprisonment. In recent years, Human Rights Watch and local Uzbek organizations have noted a trend in arrests of human rights and opposition activists on charges such as bribery, extortion, and tax evasion.

Following his arrest in 2008, Uzbek officials searched Mr. Turgunov’s home in Tashkent, where they seized political materials. They then held Mr. Turgunov incommunicado for 18 days, during which time an officer reportedly poured boiling water down his back, causing him to lose consciousness and suffer severe burns. Though Mr. Turgunov revealed his burn marks in open court, the judge accepted as fact statements made by police they had not tortured him. During the trial the judge denied Mr. Turgunov and his attorney an opportunity to examine the evidence against him or to cross-examine the government’s witness against him.

Despite these procedural deficiencies, on October 10, 2008, the court sentenced Mr. Turgunov to 10 years in prison. The Board of Appeals of the Karakalpakstan Supreme Court affirmed his sentence on December 11, 2008, after a 15-minute hearing.

Many organizations and governments have called for Mr. Turgunov’s immediate and unconditional release including the United States, European Union, International Federal for Human Rights, Frontline Defenders, and Human Rights Watch.

Freedom Now represents Mr. Turgunov as his international pro bono legal counsel.

Selected documents from Akzam Turgunov's case
Freedom Now Press ReleaseJanuary 27, 2012

Announcing that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finds Akzam Turgunov's detention arbitrary and calls for his release.

Human rights or security: A false choiceJanuary 27, 2012

Philadelphia Inquirer Op-ed by Executive Director Maran Turner arguing that the United States should use its deepening relationship with Uzbekistan to promote human rights.

Joint letter to Secretary ClintonSeptember 27, 2011

Joint letter from Freedom Now and 19 other organizations calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stand behind past statements and hold Uzbekistan accountable for its gross human rights violations.

Kazakhstan: Central Asian States Should Fulfill OSCE-Mandated Rights CommitmentsDecember 1, 2010

EurasiaNet Op-Ed by Maran Turner calling on OSCE member states to address human rights in Central Asia.

Letter (English) by Members of the Bundestag, Germany's ParliamentMay 19, 2011

Urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to Raise the Cases of Akzam Turgunov and 12 Other Imprisoned Human Rights Defenders.

Letter (German) by Members of the Bundestag, Germany's ParliamentMay 19, 2011

Urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to Raise the Cases of Akzam Turgunov and 12 Other Imprisoned Human Rights Defenders.

Letter from 12 US SenatorsJune 26, 2013

Calling on President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to release three human rights defenders unjustly imprisoned in Uzbekistan.

Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionJanuary 27, 2012

Finding the detention of Mr. Turgunov a violation of international law.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMarch 15, 2010

Filed by Freedom Now on behalf of Mr. Turgunov.

Some Straight Talk for a Washington VisitorSeptember 8, 2011

Huffington Post op-ed by Patrick Griffith of Freedom Now and Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch calling on the United States to reinforce the message that it supports a democratic Uzbekistan that respects the rights of all its citizens during talks with the Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister in Washington.

Uzbekistan: 50th birthday in prisonApril 26, 2012

Ferghana News Op-ed by Program Attorney Patrick Griffith drawing attention to the government of Uzbekistan's continued violations of human rights and wrongful imprisonment of human rights defenders like Dilmurod Saidov, Akzam Turgunov, and Gaybullo Jalilov.

Uzbekistan: Free Political Prisoners on Constitution DayDecember 6, 2012

Freedom Now joins 8 human rights groups to call for the release of Uzbek prisoners of conscience on Constitution Day.

Uzbekistan: Washington Must Stand Up for DemocracyFebruary 16, 2011

EurasiaNet op-ed by Patrick Griffith Calling on the United States to stand up for democracy in Uzbekistan during Annual Bilateral Consultations in Tashkent.

Uzbekistan: Where law is now a tool of repressionDecember 17, 2012

New Europe Online Op-ed by Member of European Parliament Nikki Sinclaire drawing attention to the government of Uzbekistan's lack of respect for rule of law and the unlawful detentions of Dilmurod Saidov, Akzam Turgunov, and Salijon Abdurakhmanov.