Police Officers Release German “Stern” Journalist Detained near Tashkent (updated)

Elena Urlayeva, head of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan based in Tashkent, photo correspondent Timur Karpov and journalist of the German magazine “Stern”, Bettina Zengling, who were detained by police officers during their independent monitoring of the cotton fields in the Bukinsky district of the Tashkent region on the morning of October 4, have now been released. An independent journalist from Tashkent, Malokhat Eshankulova, informed Ozodlik of their detention.

According to Urlaeva, she, Timur Karpov and Bettina Zenling were detained by police officers after arriving in the Bukinsky district to conduct independent monitoring on the use of forced labor in the cotton fields.

“Every day we conducted monitoring in different areas to document the use of forced labor in the Uzbek cotton fields. On that morning we arrived in the Bukinsky district, but were detained by district officers near school №44. Our detention was witnessed by the director of this school, Holodore Ahmedov”, said Elena Urlayeva.

An Ozodlik reporter contacted Urlayeva by phone at 12 noon and the human rights activist reported that she was being interrogated at the police station by Jamshid Akmalov, deputy head of the Bukinsky district police department. Urlayeva added that among the detainees there were also foreign tourists.

The detained photo correspondent, Timur Karpov, confirmed Urlayeva’s statement to “Ozodlik” and added that German journalist Bettina Zenling of the German magazine “Stern” was among the detainees.

International organizations regularly criticize the government of Uzbekistan for coercing citizens to collect cotton. However, this year Tashkent officially announced that teachers, doctors and students would not be involved in collecting cotton.

On September 22, on behalf of Prime Minister Abdullah Aripov, students, teachers and doctors were promptly returned home from the cotton fields.

However, our editorial staff continue to receive reports from various regions of Uzbekistan about employees of state organizations who have been sent to collect cotton.

More than one hundred world leading clothing manufacturers have boycotted Uzbek cotton due to the country’s use of forced labor.

Source: Ozodlik