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Gay activist in Russia faces deportation, prison and torture

30-year-old Ali Feruz is fighting to remain in Russia but authorities may send him back to his home country Uzbekistan, where homosexuality is illegal

Journalist and gay activist Ali Feruz, an Uzbekistani citizen living in Moscow, was actively involved in a campaign against the gay purge in Chechnya. This week he is being tried, and faces deportation back to his home country of Uzbekistan, where many of his colleagues fear he will be put in prison and tortured. Homosexuality is illegal in his home country.

According to his colleagues, Ali, whose real name is Khudoberdi Nurmatov, fled Uzbekistan to Russia fearing for his life after the secret service allegedly tortured him in 2009. Since then he has been working for prominent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which initially broke the story on the Chechen crackdown on gay community. He covers stories about hate crimes, refugee rights, and discrimination against LGBT people in Russia, including the developing story in Chechnya.

“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.”, says Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch. Ali's colleagues also fear that he will face additional prosecution for being openly gay.

The European Court of Human Rights has already issued an order barring the transfer of a journalist in Russia to Uzbekistan, the journalist's defence lawyer said in a statement on Facebook.

Last week Ali's friends launched a petition demanding the prevention of deportation to Uzbekistan and provide him a legal status, which would allow him to stay in Russia. Deportation back to Uzbekistan is as close to a death sentence as you can get, according to Amnesty International.