An independent Uzbek journalist charged with sodomy has demanded that the judges at his closed trial be replaced, but the plea was rejected, gay rights activists said Thursday. Ruslan Sharipov demanded at a hearing Wednesday that the panel of judges considering his case be replaced because he said they had ignored complaints about alleged violations of legal proceedings, Sharipov's public defender Surat Ikramov said in a statement. The trial, which Sharipov says is politically motivated, began last week.
Judge Ganisher Makhmudov also rejected defense lawyers' plea Wednesday that the case be transferred to another court in the capital, Tashkent. Lawyers had argued that the Mirzo Ulugbek district court couldn't provide a fair trial because Sharipov had criticized the district's police and judicial agencies in news articles. Ikramov also protested that Sharipov's alleged victims were being escorted by police to every hearing, saying it meant that they were under pressure from authorities.
Sharipov, 25, a journalist who leads an independent civil rights group that focuses on protecting media freedom, was arrested May 26 and accused of engaging in sex with another man, having sex with minors, and running a brothel. Sharipov, who is openly gay, could face up to three years in prison under a Soviet-era law banning sodomy that is still part of the Uzbek criminal code. If found guilty on the other charges, Sharipov could face another five years in jail.