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Uzbekistan Continues To Persecute RFE/RL Journalists

RFE/RL Uzbek journalist Shukrat Babajanov holds the document showing that the land on which the house is located was granted to him by the State in 1998.

WASHINGTON -- A court in Uzbekistan has seized a house belonging to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist, who claims the seizure is an act of political retribution motivated by his work for an independent media outlet.

In an order dated February 12, 2018, a court in the district of Urgench ordered the transfer of Shukrat Babajanov’s property to the State, claiming it was uninhabited and citing Article 191 in the country’s Civil Code, which regulates abandoned property. The court also claimed that the property was not listed in the State property registry.

Babajanov has a document showing that the land on which the house is located was granted to him by the State in 1998, when he worked in Uzbekistan as a teacher. He built the house over a number of years, and says that local authorities refused numerous attempts to register it.

The February seizure order was made known to Babajanov only in August, after the six-month term for appealing it had expired.

Babajanov, a Prague-based journalist with RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, says the attempt to confiscate his property follows a pattern of other actions taken by the government against him and his family. He and his brother Khurmat, also an RFE/RL journalist, were stripped of their Uzbek citizenship in 2014, he was designated a persona non grata for artwork “offending the State” in 2016, and two other brothers, Qudrat and Gayrat, also had their property seized in February.

Despite the late date, Babajanov has appealed the order, and has been informed that the claim is registered with the court and that a preliminary response will be provided the first week of November.

RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Radio Ozodlik, has reported about other cases in which Uzbek authorities have confiscated property belonging to dissidents abroad.