A Moscow court has found Uzbek journalist and activist Khudoberdi Nurmatov guilty of illegal labor activity and sentenced him to a five thousand rouble ($85) fine and deportation. However, Nurmatov will remain in a detention center in Moscow until the European Court of Human Rights has ruled on his case.
Nurmatov — a de facto refugee from Uzbekistan who is better known by his pen name Ali Feruz — was abruptly brought to the court on November 21 at 7 p.m., one hour after the court closes to the public. Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, where Nurmatov works, believes this decision was taken specifically to avoid any “unnecessary witnesses” at the hearing.
In 2009, Khudoberdi Nurmatov fled political persecution in Uzbekistan. He subsequently moved to Russia and, since 2016, has written about the lives of refugees, labor migrants, and other vulnerable social groups for Novaya Gazeta. Nurmatov is also openly gay, which is another reason he fears returning to Uzbekistan, a country where sexual activity between men is illegal.
Photo credit: Novaya Gazeta
In 2015, Nurmatov began working to formalize his stay in Russia. He unsuccessfully tried to receive refugee status and then temporary asylum.
On August 1, 2017, police officers arrested Nurmatov near the office where he works on charges of illegal labor activity. After being brought to the police precinct, Nurmatov requested that a friend retrieve documents confirming his asylum case from his apartment. However, the authorities did not wait to receive those documents. As is common practice in Russia, Nurmatov was quickly taken before a judge who ordered that he be deported.
However, the European Court of Human Rights forbade Russia from deporting Nurmatov back to Uzbekistan until the court could deliver a ruling on a complaint submitted by his defense against Russia’s deportation order. Subsequently, on August 8, a Moscow city court ruled to halt Nurmatov’s deportation until it could rule on the journalist’s appeal.