The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Ukrainian authorities to release Uzbek journalist Narzullo Okhunjonov from detention, allow him to remain in Ukraine, and reject any request to extradite him.
"Okhunjonov is at serious risk of being imprisoned for his work in Uzbekistan, where journalists face prosecution for their critical reporting," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova in a September 27 statement.
The New York-based media watchdog quoted the journalist’s lawyer, Oleksiy Fyodorov, as saying that a Kyiv court approved a 40-day detention period for Okhunjonov, who has been living in exile since 2013.
Fyodorov said that he filed an appeal against the court ruling.
The lawyer also said that his client could face extradition to Uzbekistan.
Okhunjonov was detained at Kyiv's international Zhuliany airport on September 20 after authorities noted that his name was on an Interpol list, according to Oksana Romaniuk, director of the Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Information.
He had traveled from Turkey with his family to seek political asylum, she said on Facebook.
Uzbek authorities filed the international warrant for Okhunjonov on a fraud charge, which he denies, Fyodorov said.
The lawyer told CPJ that his client left Uzbekistan for Turkey in 2013 to avoid politically motivated persecution for his reporting.
Okhunjonov writes critically from exile for websites including BBC Uzbek about Uzbekistan's authoritarian government, Fyodorov said.
He added that, before fleeing into exile, Okhunjonov headed a unit covering politics and education at the radio section of Uzbekistan's state-run broadcaster UzMTRK.