We write to express our grave concern over the indictment of our colleague Andrei V. Kubatin in Uzbekistan. [i] In December 2017 Kubatin, who is an Uzbekistani citizen, was charged and convicted of treason to the state under the criminal code of Uzbekistan. Before he was sentenced to eleven years of imprisonment, he was an associate professor at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent. His field is medieval Central Eurasia, with a specialization in the early medieval Turkic states of the region. He has made a significant contribution to the study of the early history of Uzbekistan, as well as to the ethnohistorical and cultural history of Central Asia. Kubatin is a well-known scholar, whose work has appeared in international journals (including the Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi) as well as journals in the post-Soviet world. Kubatin is charged with providing or selling scanned copies of rare books from the Central State Archive to foreign scholars. Kubatin maintains that he did not have access to any secret documents, and that the materials in question are scholarly works freely available in pdf form online. He maintains therefore that he is innocent of these charges. [ii]
Kubatin’s family and colleagues in Uzbekistan have already drafted written appeals to the Uzbek government for his release, citing in particular his rights as a scholar to willing cooperate in international scholarly endeavors. Such engagement with international scholars is supported and encouraged under Uzbekistan’s recent efforts to increase and expand the government’s transparency and human rights.
Although the Government of Uzbekistan has made important strides to increase the space for academic freedom and human rights, the imprisonment of Andrei Kubatin risks sacrificing these gains. The international community of CESS calls upon the Uzbek authorities to respect the principles of human rights and academic freedom, as well as the transparent rule of law. We call for the release of our colleague. [iii]
CESS Academic Freedom, Advocacy, and Scholars at Risk (AFASAR) Committee
[i] This news has been reported here.
[ii] His case was mentioned in the March 2018 report compiled by Human Rights Watch which can be found here.
[iii] We thank our colleague Peter Golden, Emeritus Professor of History, Rutgers University, in the preparation of this statement.