On February 26, 2010, between 19.00 and 21.00, Nematillo Botakuziev, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, disappeared in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
He is wanted by the authorities in Kyrgyzstan after being accused of a role in organising protests in the Kyrgyz town of Nookat in autumn 2008. He was last seen by the staff of UNHCR Office in Tajikistan. Several days ago he applied through UNHCR for international protection. The local UNHCR officer in Dushambe has made the following comment: «This person [Botakuziev] has been registered, but a registration document wasn't issued to him yet».
Nematillo Botakuziev, born in 1967 and a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, has been persecuted by Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies since July 2004. He is a human rights defender who worked closely with the late Kyrgyz journalist, Alisher Saipov, who was assassinated on the street in Osh, Kyrgyzstan on October 24, 2007.Nematillo Botakuziev has arrested on false charges three times in the past six years.
He attracted the attention of the authorities after he married Mavlyuda Abdulazizova (born 1969), a citizen of Uzbekistan who more than a decade ago had been convicted on spurious charges of «attempting to overthrow the constitutional regime» in Uzbekistan (in reference to Article 159 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan). She was pardoned in July 1999 but then some months later was tipped off that she would be arrested again. Abdulazizova fled Uzbekistan for the town of Nookat, Kyrgyzstan, where she took refugee at Nematillo Botakuziev's house.
In July 2004, nine officers of the 9th Unit of the Interior Ministry of Uzbekistan came to Kyrgyzstan in an attempt to take Abdulazizova into custody. (The 9th Unit is a special in charge of persons who are labelled as religious extremists by the government of Uzbekistan.) By this time Nematillo Botakuziev and Mavlyuda Abdulazizova had two children together. In the meantime, the Uzbek secret service started to put pressure on Abdulazizova's family in Uzbekistan in order to discover out her whereabouts. Nematillo Botakuziev also same under pressure from the Kyrgyz authorities to testify against his wife, but he refused to.
Pressure on Botakuziev intensified beginning in October 2007, when the Kyrgyz secret services demanded a written statement from him stating that he would not participate in celebrations in the central square of Nookat of Eid al Fitr, the Muslim holiday which takes place at the end of Ramadan. He refused to write such a statement. He was supported in this by Ravshan Gapirov, the director of the human rights centre «Justice-Truth», and following this Botakuziev began to work formally with «Justice-Truth» as a human rights defender. Rustam Gapirov was subsequently arrested in March 2008 and held in prison until December 2008.
On September 25, 2008, a group of Nookat residents met with the head of local administration, Turdimamat Aliev, and asked for permission to celebrate in the town's central park the Muslim holiday of Eid al Aha, which marks the end of the piligrimage to Mecca. This request was declined. The chief police officer, having seen Nematillo Botakuziev at the meeting, publicly called him «a leader of the Wahhabis» and threatened to «finish him» Nematillo Botakuziev himself denies membership in any religious extremist groups and states that he is simply a practicing and observant Muslim.
On October 1, 2008, Botakuziev heard that there was a protest underway in the centre of Nookat, and that protesters were throwing stones at the local administration building. Any such violence had already stopped by the time he arrived to the site of the protest. When the authorities found out that Nematillo Botakuziev had alerted the press about the demonstration, they accused him of organising the protests; and then soon announced that he was wanted on criminal charges.
After learning that he was now wanted for arrest, Nematillo Botakuziev left Kyrgyzstan, and arriving in Dushambe, he applied for registration as a refugee to the UNHCR office in Dushambe, Tajikistan. Apparently Botakuziev spent the final hours before his disappearance at the UNHCR office preparing some documents.
We urge all international organisations and human rights defenders to devote attention to this case and to help to find Nematillo Botakuziev.