Last week, a Russian court ruled to deport independent journalist Khudoberdi Nurmatov — better known by his penname Ali Feruz — back to his native Uzbekistan. That decision has sparked controversy both in Russia and abroad.
If returned to Uzbekistan, Nurmatov will likely face imprisonment and torture as an independent journalist, a human rights activist, and a gay man. Shortly after the deportation decision, the European Court of Human Rights forbade Russia from deporting Nurmatov until it could rule on his appeal.
But that does not mean Nurmatov is out of the woods yet. The journalist has also faced abuse at the hands of Russian law enforcement. After his trial, Nurmatov wrote a note to Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, where he worked, describing his cruel treatment in custody.
Khudoberdi Nurmatov’s memo to the chief editor of Novaya Gazeta:
After the court announced its decision everybody left the courtroom. I couldn’t believe the decision, that they will put me in the holding center for people facing deportation.
They left me and my lawyer to wait for a copy of court’s decision. At that moment I blacked out. I was frightened. Than I saw a pen and unconsciously took it. I don’t remember what happened next. I came to only when I was taken from the court’s building.
In the courtyard I saw a microbus full of migrants.
My hands were cuffed behind my back. They put me in the car and we drove off. When we had driven around 500 meters, one of the bailiffs, out of nowhere, hit me with an electric shocker.
“Better to burn such ****** with a taser,” he shouted.
“Enough, enough!” I started screaming in pain.
Then he hit me again with the shocker in my stomach and my right leg. Then my left shoulder.
I was in handcuffs the whole time.
That bailiff shouted insults at me for the entire trip to the town of Sakharovo [where the migration detention center is located].
I couldn’t memorize his ID tag number. But his colleagues called him ‘Sanya’ (Alexander).
According to chief editor Muratov, since the beating in the microbus, Nurmatov has suffered from severe chest pain and increased blood pressure. For three days, also could not eat. Muratov stressed that the guards in the convoy serve in Russia’s Federal Bailiff Service.
Human rights organization Amnesty International and the Union of Russian Journalists have both called for the authorities to overturn Nurmatov’s deportation.