Akzam Turgunov is an Uzbek human rights activist and political opposition leader who has been detained in Uzbekistan since 2008 on extortion charges. Mr. Turgunov founded and served as Chairman of Mazlum (“The Oppressed”), a human rights organization in Tashkent that advocates on behalf of prisoners of conscience and protests against the use of torture. He also served as Director of the Tashkent section of Erk (“Freedom”), a political opposition party.
Mr. Turgunov was arrested in the town of Manget on July 11, 2008 by the very police department he was investigating for corruption. The charges appear fabricated to conceal a political motive for imprisonment. Following his arrest, the Uzbek officials searched Mr. Turgunov’s home in Tashkent, where they seized political materials. They then held Mr. Turgunov incommunicado for 18 days, during which time an officer reportedly poured boiling water down his back, causing him to lose consciousness and suffer severe burns. Though Mr. Turgunov revealed his burn marks in open court, the judge accepted as fact statements made by police that they had not tortured him.
During the trial, the judge denied Mr. Turgunov and his attorney an opportunity to examine the evidence against him or to cross-examine the government’s witness against him. On October 10, 2008, the court sentenced Mr. Turgunov to 10 years' imprisonment. The Board of Appeals of the Karakalpakstan Supreme Court affirmed his sentence on December 11, 2008, after a 15-minute hearing. Mr. Turgunov is currently detained at a work camp in the city of Karshi