An independent journalist from Uzbekistan tried to kill himself in court after a judge in Russia ruled to extradite him to his home country. The writer had been living in Russia since 2009 and he was facing deportation because Russia accused him of violating immigration laws.

The journalist, Khudoberdi Nurmatov, who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz for the independent newspaper Novaya Gezeta, had escaped from his home country because he found it to be repressive.

Nurmatov’s lawyer Daniil Khayimovich said that after the decision was announced in court on Tuesday, his client tried to slash his wrists with a pen, shouting that he would ‘rather die than return to Uzbekistan’. Court bailiffs immediately pounced on Nurmatov to stop him from taking his life.

Meanwhile Rights group Amnesty International has called Nurmatov ‘openly gay’ and has demanded that Russia overturn this ruling.

“Ali Feruz is openly gay, a human rights activist, and a correspondent for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper,” Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“This is a near-lethal combination for someone who is about to be handed over to Uzbekistan, where […] torture is endemic.”

Human Rights Watch deputy director Rachel Denber said Russia had an obligation to protect Nurmatov, “not send him directly into harm’s way”.

“Uzbekistan has a long and well-established record of torture, and there is little doubt that Nurmatov faces a serious risk if he’s forcibly returned there,” she added.

Nurmatov had found refuge in Russia after fleeing his country in 2009. He had previously endured torture in his home country due to his sexual orientation.

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