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Germany willing to grant asylum to persecuted Uzbek journalist

A Russian court has postponed the deportation of Ali Feruz, a journalist at the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, to Uzbekistan. It is to wait for a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Ali Feruz can count on a paid job and a residency permit if he is allowed to come to Germany and not the persecution, imprisonment and torture that his colleagues say would await him should he be sent back to Uzbekistan.

Last Wednesday, a Russian court determined that the Russian-born journalist be deported to Uzbekistan. Since then, Feruz (his pseudonym) has been detained in a deportation center outside Moscow. On Tuesday, the Moscow City Court postponed the deportation but ruled that Feruz be confined in a special detention center for foreigners until the ECHR issues its ruling.

According to information provided to DW, Germany is prepared to take in the journalist. That information states that he would be granted a residency permit on "humanitarian grounds." German authorities have prepared Feruz's entry in what has been a long process: "We have done everything possible. If it were up to us, the next step would be very simple," say sources in German diplomatic circles.

Read more: 'I would rather die than return to Uzbekistan'

Court hearing delayed

Unfortunately, things are not that simple: Feruz, who is legally a citizen of both Russia and Uzbekistan, cannot leave Russia. Judges had requested, among other things, a Russian translation of the decision handed down by the ECHR that Russia could not deport Feruz to Uzbekistan until further notice.

Another point that has complicated the issue is the fact that Feruz does not have a passport. He says it was stolen years ago and he did not want to apply for a new one for fear that he would be arrested by Uzbek authorities. According to Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief at Novaya Gazeta, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is prepared to provide Feruz with travel documents and assist him in leaving Russia.

Read more: Journalist held for 18 years released in Uzbekistan

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Work in Germany

If everything goes well, Feruz will have a clear path to Germany: He has been given a position in a project for Syrian refugees at the University of Göttingen. Feruz speaks Arabic among other languages, and Olga Reznikova from the University of Göttingen told DW that the position would be financed through a stipend from the Boris Nemtsov Foundation.

Moreover, the organization Reporters Without Borders is interested in working with him. German friends of the journalist have been actively working toward getting him to Germany since he was first arrested by Russian authorities in March 2017.

A woman protests in Moscow against the planned deportation of Ali Feruz (DW / Y.Vishnevetskaya)

"Leave Ali in Peace," say protesters in Moscow who have steadfastly supported the persecuted journalist

Feruz writes under that pseudonym for the Novaya Gazeta, which established an international reputation through its reporting on the abduction of homosexuals in Chechnya. According to the Novaya Gazeta, Feruz fled Uzbekistan in 2008 and arrived in Russia after stays in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. He applied for asylum in Russia but his request was denied. Colleagues say that Feruz has feared deportation to Uzbekistan since then. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have warned that Feruz's life would be in danger should he be sent back to Uzbekistan.

The deportation center is not the worst place for Feruz to be, says his lawyer, Daniil Chaimovitch. He feels relatively safe there. According to Feruz's colleague Yelena Kostyuchenko, he fears that if he were in Moscow he may be kidnapped and wind up in an Uzbek jail cell – something that would not be unusual in Russia. Furthermore, editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov said that when he visited Feruz in the detention center the journalist told him he had been beaten and given electroshocks while being transported there last week.

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