Russian court blocks deportation of gay journalist

Activists said he faced torture in Uzbekistan where homosexuality is illegal.

— -- A Moscow appeals court has temporarily blocked the deportation of a gay journalist to Uzbekistan, where rights groups had warned he could face imprisonment and torture.

The imminent expulsion of the journalist, Khudoberdy Nurmatov, to Uzbekistan, ranked by rights groups as one of the most repressive countries in the world and where homosexuality is illegal, had attracted international criticism and appeals to Russia to halt it. On Friday, the European Court of Human Rights ordered an emergency stay on Nurmatov's deportation.

The judge at the Moscow City Court today responded to that order, ruling that no deportation will take place until Nurmatov’s case has been examined by the European Court.

Nurmatov will now likely remain in a migrant detention center until the European Court ruling, one of his lawyers said. That could take between a year and 18 months, the lawyer, Tatiana Glushkova, told ABC News by phone.

Nurmatov, who writes under the pen name, Ali Feruz, works for the Russian investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. He fled Uzbekistan several years ago after being tortured by the country's security forces, who had pressured him to become an informant, according to his lawyers. Nurmatov, who was born in Russia but grew up in Uzbekistan, returned to Moscow in 2011 but a year later lost his passport, leaving him undocumented.

He has appealed for asylum in Russia but was rejected and last week police arrested him as walked to work at the newspaper. He has been held at the detention center since a lower court ruled that he be expelled to Uzbekistan.

Human rights groups have warned that Nurmatov would likely face imprisonment and torture if he returned to Uzbekistan, given that he is openly gay and has been harassed by Uzbekistan’s security services.

“It’s not a death sentence, but it’s very close to it,” Denis Kriovsheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, told ABC News on Monday of the potential deportation. “It’s very dangerous baggage to take back to Uzbekistan.” ==================