Washington, DC: Today, a bi-partisan group of 12 United States Senators, led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), called on President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to release three human rights defenders unjustly imprisoned in Uzbekistan. Other signatories to the letter included Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Members of the Committee on Foreign Relations joining the initiative also included Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).

In the attached letter, the Senators state that the detentions of Akzam Turgunov, Dilmurod Saidov, and Salijon Abdurakhmanov “appear to be politically motivated” and “their continued detention is inconsistent with our countries’ cooperation in many other areas.” The letter notes that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detentions of Messrs. Turgunov and Saidov in violation of international law and that Mr. Abdurakhmanov’s case is currently pending before the UN Human Rights Committee. Furthermore, the Senators expressed concern regarding the health of the three prisoners of conscience and their access to adequate medical care.

Mr. Akzam Turgunov, 61, is a public defender and human rights advocate serving a 10-year prison sentence on alleged charges of extortion. Despite his advanced age, for much of his incarceration Mr. Turgunov has been forced to work long hours in a labor camp.  Mr. Dilmurod Saidov, 51, is a journalist and human rights activist imprisoned in 2009 and sentenced to 12 ½ years on alleged charges of extortion and forgery. He suffers from acute tuberculosis and his health has deteriorated in detention. Mr. Salijon Abdurakhmanov, 63, is a prominent journalist serving a 10-year sentence on alleged drug charges. International monitors have been denied access to Mr. Abdurakhmanov, raising concerns about his health and well-being.

Freedom Now’s Executive Director Maran Turner stated: “There is much at stake right now as the relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan grows, and bilateral cooperation on matters relating to security becomes more critical. But what is also critical for this bilateral relationship is that Uzbekistan upholds its commitment to international law and ends the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders. These 12 senators are calling on the President of Uzbekistan to do just that.”