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Newsline: British Embassy man says ‘Uzbeks tortured me’

Britain has been accused of abandoning a Foreign Office employee who says he was tortured by the Uzbek authorities and accused of spying for London. Kayum Ortikov, 44, a married father of four who worked for the British government as a security guard, ended up in a dungeon in Tashkent after being arrested on charges of “human trafficking”. It appears the extent of his “crime” was trying to help arrange visas for some relatives to work in Russia. Mr Ortikov claims that his refusal to become an informant for Uzbekistan’s secret police led to torture sessions in which he was accused of spying for the British. In the months after his arrest in December 2008, he says he was hung from the ceiling and beaten, left naked in a freezing room, and burnt on his genitals with a newspaper which had been set alight. He remained in prison for another two years, during which time, he says, he did not receive a single visit from British officials. He said: “Military intelligence and the SNB [National Security Service] tried hard to get employees of the British embassy to work for them as spies… I said, ‘I’m not going to do this’.” He recalls being warned that he would “pay” for his refusal. In October 2009, his wife, Mohira, 40, was finally allowed to visit him. Shocked, and barely recognising the shell of the man who was her husband, she spoke to human rights campaigners. She claims it was only then that British embassy staff agreed to meet her – a year after her husband’s arrest. “They were very warm and really seemed like they wanted to help, but then I didn’t hear from them for a year and a half,” she said. In 2011, The Independent on Sunday interviewed Mr Ortikov’s wife in Uzbekistan. Several weeks later, in May, the Uzbek authorities released her husband. The family managed to flee Uzbekistan last year and are living in a three-room flat in Ukraine. Their case is being dealt with by the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. Fears for the safety of his family and concern that going public could affect their chances of resettling in Britain have prevented Mr Ortikov from speaking out until now. “I was not a British spy – they should have proven this to the Uzbek government. Why did they wait so long? Why were they silent so long?” He accuses embassy officials of washing their hands of him. “They didn’t want to damage their relations with the Uzbek government because of me and my case. On 2 February [2009] they sent in the mail a letter to my home informing my family and I that I was no longer an employee and after that I think they just didn’t care what happened to me. They threw me away.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uzbeks-tortured-me-says-british-embassy-man-8679979.html

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