This third in a series of articles by Dmitry Tihonov tells about the fire in his house that destroyed all his documents, files and witnesses of state organized forced labour. Mr. Tihonov is a journalist and human rights defender, who was suppressed for documenting forced labour in Uzbekistan. After several fabricated cases and false accusations, his house in Angren, Uzbekistan, was burned in October last year.
by Dmitry Tihonov
On October 20, a fire destroyed my home office, and files were confiscated from my home.
My home is in the village of Yangiabad, Tashkent region. The fire seems to have been started at about 2:00 in the morning. At 4am, the neighbours saw that the house was on fire. By that time, the flames were bursting out of the windows and already through the roof.
I learned about the fire almost a week later, only when my home office had sat burned-out for seven days. Then on October 27 I visited my home.
The fire destroyed my home office, my computers, legal documents and my legal library. The room literally burned down to the ground. Gone were
countless files from my human rights and journalistic work.
Additionally, two external hard drives carrying information were confiscated. I had stored them in metal boxes, which were left in the remains of the fire, the insides intact and without the hard drives. A cardboard box with legal reference books on child and forced labour was also gone, confiscated from a room untouched by the fire. The house had been searched first and then only the office set on fire.
The Angren fire department informed me that neither the locks of the house nor the windows had been broken, and that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit in the attic.
The fire department explanation fails to explain why the fire consumed the entire office yet left the rest of the house untouched, and why the hard drives and box of files were missing. It is simply absurd to conclude that such deliberate actions were accidental.
The third administrative proceedings
The same day I arrived to find my burned-out home office, I learned that a third administrative case was initiated against me.
The police claimed to have a statement from the chairwoman of a shirkat (community housing association) in Angren alleging that I had demanded a statement from her that her house lacked heat and hot water. According to the police, the statement went on to claim I had demanded access to her basement and pipes, and that after refusing such demands, I had repeatedly visited the woman, cursed at her and her family, and even beat her sister.
In reality, I had never met the supposed complainant nor any of the other people named in the statement. I don’t even know where the shirkat is located that I supposedly visited.
Yet on the basis of the fabricated statement, police opened new administrative proceedings against me, again under Article 183 (“Disorderly conduct”).
One detail stuck out in the statement. The shirkat named in it is located in the same neighbourhood of the mahalla (neighbourhood committee) whose chairman was the complainant named in the previous administrative case of disorderly conduct, from September 20. Additionally, the second complainant’s son is a city councilman, raising the possibility of local officials’ seeking favour as another factor underlying the repeated charges against me.
Notably, the story fabricated for the second set of charges claimed that the alleged disorderly conduct occurred on October 27 and 28. The 27th was the day I had returned home to find my home office burned down, and from morning until early afternoon I had met with neighbors and the fire department. So the statement claims that after discovering my home office, all my savings and my life’s work destroyed, I immediately proceeded to visit a shirkat and demand a statement about its heating system, then returned the next day to curse the shirkat’s chairperson and beat her sister. I grasp for words to convey the absurdity of anyone following such a course of action.
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