Businessman Files Torture Case Against Uzbekistan

Businessman Files Torture Case Against Uzbekistan

A Turkish businessman has begun legal action against the authorities in Uzbekistan, who he says tortured him and stole his assets in the country. 

In an interview for NBCentralAsia, Vahit Güneş, said, "The international community must learn of the brutalities that take place in places of detention in Uzbekistan.

Güneş, 46, was head of the Turkuaz shopping centre in the Uzbek capital Tashkent for seven years when he was detained in 2011 and held for nine-and-a-half months by the National Security Service.

He says he was tortured while in detention, to force him to sign confessions that were later used in court. None of the convicted businessmen was able to choose a defence lawyer, and had counsel appointed for them.

"We were tortured badly using electric shocks," Güneş said. "We saw people tortured to death; some of them had heads, hands and bodies dismembered."

A court found him and seven other businessmen guilty of tax evasion and “encouraging the black economy”, but instead of receiving custodial sentences, they were released under amnesty in late February 2012 and immediately deported. Their assets in Uzbekistan were seized by court order. A ninth Turkish businessman was sentenced to three years in prison and fined around 15,000 US dollars.

Güneş is certain the Uzbek authorities contrived the case in order to acquire his assets which he valued at 60 million US dollars.

Since arriving in Turkey, Güneş has had clinical treatment for his injuries. He says that one of those sentenced along with him, 23-year-old Hairetdin Öner, is still in a Turkish hospital with damage to internal organs and psychological trauma.

Torture has been well-documented as a systematic practice in Uzbekistan, for example in Human Right Watch's comprehensive report No One Left to Witness, from December 2011. 

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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