The Absurd Verdict: Uzbekistan has convicted Yuri Korepanov, a Russian citizen, for “betraying his Uzbek motherland”
Although he is a Russian citizen, 63 years old Yuri Korepanov, was tried as a citizen of Uzbekistan and convicted to 16 years in prison.
It appears that the evidence against him has been forged. Korepanov has a level 2 disability, and has serious heart problem. We urge the international community to promptly assist him.
Yuri Korepanov was born on March 20th 1947 in Pokrovskoe, a village in the Alapaev district of the Sverdlov region. In 1967, he graduated from Tashkent Tank Command College with honors. He started his career training new recruits, and reached the position of commander of the battalion at the military college in Tashkent. He subsequently graduated from Marshal Malinovsky's Military Academy of Tank Corps. After graduation, he was transferred to the military department of the Agricultural Irrigation and Mechanization Institute in Tashkent. In 2002, Korepanov ended his military career, having reached the rank of colonel and the post of Head of the military department of this institute. He is a retiree of Russia’s Ministry of Defense, and the recipient of various awards and medals of the Ministries of Defense of Russia and Uzbekistan.
- Background of the case
In May 2003, having left the Military Forces of Uzbekistan, the retired colonel Korepanov moved to Russia as a permanent resident. Soon after that he received Russian citizenship, as evidenced by his passport, which was issued at the Artyomov city department of the Ekaterinburg Internal Affairs office. In 2004, Korepanov withdrew his registration and returned his Uzbek passport to Mirzo-Ulugbek passport office in Tashkent. He visited his chronically ill son in Tashkent every year, using his Russian passport. Stamps in his passport serve as proof of that, which have been provided immediately to the Russian and Uzbek state agencies.
On October 30, 2010, an Uzbek border patrol removed Yuri Korepanov from the train at the Keles train station on the Uzbek-Kazakh border. Korepanov was traveling from Tashkent to Ekaterinburg. Since then he has been kept at the pre-trial detention center of the Uzbek National Security Office.
- Validity of the charge
On January 11th 2011, the Military Court of Uzbekistan found Korepanov guilty as a citizen of Uzbekistan. He has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, based on the following Articles of Uzbekistan's penal code: Article 223 (illegally leaving or entering Uzbekistan) - 1 year; Article 157 (treason in favor of the Russian Federation) - 15 years. The fact that he has been a Russian citizen since 2004 has been completely ignored.
The trial lasted only one month. During the trial Yuri Korepanov was not given access to a lawyer, which violated his right for defense, provided by Articles 48 and 49 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Uzbekistan (CCP). He was subjected to moral and psychological pressure. He was told that should he not confess, his son, who lives in Uzbekistan and suffers from insulin-dependent diabetes, would be prosecuted. Korepanov did not confess.
In violation of the Article 475 of the CCP of Uzbekistan, which states that the convicted individual should be given a copy of the verdict, Korepanov did not get the copy. The copy should be provided to the convict no later than 3 days after its announcement, and in case of a big volume, no later than in 10 days after that. Only after assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and under public pressure, a lawyer was granted permission to get acquainted with the case but he was asked to sign a non-disclosure letter. The lawyer managed to file an appeal of the verdict.
According to Korepanov’s son, Dmitri Korepanov, his father was initially accused of flying into Uzbekistan using his Russian passport, but leaving the country with his Uzbek passport. There was also information that he received exit and Schenghen visas, and left for Italy. However the defense proved that the defendant was not issued an Uzbek passport after becoming Russian citizen, and the prosecutor agreed with it. In the end, Yuri Korepanov was charged according to Article 223 of the penal code for illegally getting Russian citizenship, and therefore illegally crossing the borders with his Russian passport when visiting his youngest son from 2004 until his arrest.
The accusation of betraying the motherland (Article 157 of CCP of Uzbekistan) appears strange, if not absurd. First of all, Yuri Korepanov is a Russian citizen. Moreover, for over 10 years he did not have access to official information, and especially to state secrets of Uzbekistan. Korepanov could not threaten sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, defense or economy of Uzbekistan. He had served in Uzbekistan for 40 years, and received various Soviet awards for it. The Uzbek authorities have tried to deny that, but the documents proving the awards and service record have been in Russia for many years already.
- Special circumstances
Yuri Korepanov has a level 2 disability. His health condition can be seriously compromised during imprisonment.
Association “Human Rights in Central Asia” considers the verdict of imprisoning Yuri Korepanov for 16 years illegal, and calls for his immediate release.
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Observations of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia over the position of Russian people in Uzbekistan highlight that Yuri Korepanov’s case is not exceptional. About 100 Russian are currently serving various sentences. A number of them, former Uzbek citizens, were found guilty according to the Article 223 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan. Some of them were victims of extortion from customs and law enforcement bodies.
In Uzbekistan there is a widespread practice of illegal expropriations of former Uzbek citizens who still have belongings there. According to the law, people who want to abandon Uzbek citizenship should fill out a form indicating their will and submit it to the Uzbek Embassy in Moscow. However Uzbek authorities purposely take a long time to approve such requests. According to the law “On Citizenship of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, the citizenship is annulled only after a Decree of the President of Uzbekistan is published. This process often lasts a few years.
Meanwhile according to the Russian legislation, for annulment of other citizenship it suffices to submit mail receipt confirming that the applicant has sent the appropriate forms and passport to his/her country. Deliberate delaying of procedures lets Uzbek officials extort money from their former citizens. Many people visit Uzbekistan with their Russian passports after completing all procedures of abandoning Uzbek citizenship. In Uzbekistan they find themselves trapped by corrupted officials who use the imperfect legislation in their own interests. Usually these people are prosecuted according to the Article 223 of the Uzbek Criminal Code. Some of them pay fines but some get into prisons.
Eight former citizens of Uzbekistan have approached our organization. They were deprived of their properties after officials found out they became citizens of another country. For instance, Elena Levenchik who is now a Russian citizen came back to Gulistan to sell her privatized five-bedroom apartment and found her apartment occupied by the dean of the Gulistan State Pedagogical University, Tashkenbaev Ulugbek Nigmatovich. He broke into her apartment. As a result of this illegal action by Tashkenbaev, Levenchuk lost her belongings and the apartment. In spite of threatening by the illegal tenant and the district militiaman, Levenchik filed a claim and won the case. However, the decision of the court was not enforced in practice, and enforcement officials suggested her to leave the country in peace. Tashkenbaev resold the apartment to a third party. This self-professed “honest” buyer purchased the apartment even though Levenchik’s son was the registered owner.
Employees of the housing organizations, heads of mahalla (street) committees, militiamen, and other state employees, are actively involved in the property take over procedures by identifying apartments of people who live abroad. The first victims of this tyranny are those who emigrated to Russia and Ukraine.
The association for Human Rights in Central Asia will continue to monitor the respect of the rights of foreign citizens who have previously held Uzbek citizenship.
- Press-release "Citizen of Russia Yuri Korepanov allowed leaving Uzbekistan" of 25 November 2011;
- Press-release "Uzbekistan: citizen of Russia Yuri Korepanov released from custody, but cannot leave Uzbekistan" of 25 August 2011;
- Press-release “Uzbekistan: 63-year old convict Yuri Korepanov has been driven to cardiac infarction!”of 1 March 2011;