BBC appeal for release of detained Tajikistan reporter

The BBC World Service is “highly concerned” about the safety of their correspondent in Tajikistan, Urunboy Usmonov, who has been detained in the country for a week without regular access to his lawyer.

A statement was made by the BBC on June 16 condemning the detention and demanding the immediate release of Usmonov. But despite similar statements from the British and American Embassies, the Tajik authorities have not responded.

An article published by Tajik press agency on June 18 claimed Usmonov was a member of Hizbut-Tahir, a banned Islamic political organisation whose goal is for all Muslim countries to unify as an Islamic state.

The BBC say the accusation represents a breach of legal practice and a serious violation of presumption of innocence.

A statement, released today by the World Service, said: “We strongly reiterate that these allegations are unfounded and the BBC sees them as a serious threat to professional journalism and to freedom of expression in Tajikistan.

“Urunboy Usmonov as a BBC journalist is expected to cover all sides of any story and in the course of his work it is only natural that he would meet and interview people representing all shades of opinion.”

Since he was detained Usmonov has been denied access to his family, who have expressed deep concerns about his health and possible maltreatment in the detention centre. He suffers from a serious heart condition and has requested further medical attention.

“Our thoughts are with Urunboy and his family,” said the BBC. “We appeal to everyone with influence over this situation to redouble their efforts to secure [his] immediate release.”