This is Maksim Popov, an Uzbek psychologist sentenced to seven years in Karimov’s notorious jails for running an AIDS charity which distributed needles, condoms and UN supplied literature.
There is an excellent article about Maksim in Guardian CIF. As usual with web articles on Uzbekistan, many of the comments are from Karimov trolls.
The swift spread of AIDS in Uzbekistan is fuelled by the flood of heroin from the Dostum held areas of Afghanistan, in the trafficking of which Dostum and Karimov are personally involved. This is what UK citizen Richard Conroy of the UN was investigating when he was killed in a plane crash.
The Uzbek government bans programmes of free needles and also of free condoms – yet at the same time it seeks to reduce population through a forced sterilisation programme.
Even though Maksim Popov received some DFID and USAID funding for his work, neither the US nor the UK has made any protest to Uzbekistan about Popov’s jailing. The last UK government put their military alliance with Uzbekistan over Afghanistan as first and last in their relationship with Karimov, and increasingly refused to act over, or even to acknowledge, the dire state of human rights in the country.
I urge you strongly to write to your MP and urge the British government to protest formally to Uzbekistan over the jailing of Maksim Popov. International pressure can have an effect – it secured the release of Umida Akhmedova, whose sentence for publishing photographs that “damaged the image of Uzbekistan” has been suspended.
But it is also very important that you write now. I know from experience that the civil service will be gleaning from Ministers in the new government their first “Lines to Take”, to give policy direction on various questions. I am quite sure that Maksim will not mind if, in trying to help him, we also bring to the front of Minsters’ minds the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. (If you write to your MP, they should forward it to the Foreign Office and it will get a ministerial reply).
In opposition William Hague had raised the question of torture in Uzbekistan and our complicity in it.
Whether or not he is prepared to take action over Maksim Popov’s dreadful imprisonment will be an early indication as to whether foreign policy may improve.
You can get details of your MP here: