22 Sep A private company is trying to seize a house and a plot of a deaf family
In early March before the COVID-19 lockdown in Uzbekistan, I wrote about how a deaf family in Tashkent region was being kicked out from their own house. Unfortunately, the family of five deaf people is still in the process of eviction and under risk of being thrown out on the street. I thank journalist Alexey Volosevich for covering this case of injustice towards deaf people in Uzbekistan and provide the English translation of his article published in Russian today on 22 September 2020 on AsiaTerra:
We have already told how the private agricultural company “Kuylyuk” is trying to evict the Zhilkin family consisting of five deaf people from their house onto the street. The owner of the agricultural firm proves that the house and the adjacent plot of the Zhilkins belong to him, since in 1998 the ex-khokim (head of administration) of the Zangiata district of the Tashkent region, where they are located, transferred this land to him by his decision. The first instance court sided with him and ordered the disabled family to vacate their home. The appeal process began in the summer. Due to the quarantine, it was suspended, but not completed: the head of the company still hopes to take possession of the real estate that never belonged to him.
The Zhilkins themselves learned about the claims made only in 2018 – 20 years after the khokim of the district wrote a paper on granting a vast territory, on which, among other things, their house and plot are located, to the private company, and shortly before the latter filed for them to the court demanding eviction. At the same time, the agrofirm is trying to seize the house of the neighbours of the Zhilkin family, the Temirov family, that is, it wants to lay its hands on the property of two families at once. According to the representative of the latter, Valijon Temirov, raiding, based on non-transparent decisions of the regional authorities, has become the main activity of the agricultural firm in recent years; seized land plots are sold for shops, warehouses, garage boxes and similar commercial and utility rooms.
THE KHOKIM’s “GIFT”
Background story. In 1970, behind the current ring road near the Kuylyuk massif, the Tashkent City Electricity Network Enterprise (TashGorPes) built a house divided by a common wall into two residential premises; apparently intended for the technical staff of the power line passing nearby. In 1971, the substation belonging to the organization provided both parts of the house, along with the adjoining plots, to two of its employees with their families: engineer on duty Anatoly Peregudov and electrician Alexander Sablin.
Peregudov worked in Tashgorpes until 1982, died in 1987, and in 1993, according to the state programme for the privatisation of housing, his widow, Valentina, took part in the privatisation programme, and his 19-year-old daughter Tatyana, who has cadastral documents.
Tatiana is a disabled person of the 2nd group since childhood, just like her husband Vadim and their three children. Having married, she changed her last name to Zhilkina. She has been living in her father’s house since her birth. Now – together with her husband and two minor children (the eldest daughter moved to her husband, although she was registered with her parents), as well as with her 9-year-old granddaughter, the only hearing in the whole family.
It should be clarified that in the 1970s, a house with a backyard territory, as can be seen from the documents, was on the balance sheet of the state farm, created at the beginning of the same decade. This does not mean that its was in the property of the state farm, because all the property was state owned. Subsequently, the state farm was transformed into a greenhouse farm “Kuylyuk”, which was part of the state cooperative concern “Uzplodovoschvinprom”, and in the 1990s it mysteriously turned into a private enterprise “Agrofirm Kuylyuk”, owned by the former director of the state farm Mehriddin Akhmedov. Nevertheless, several documents prove that the house and the land plot of the Peregudov family were properly privatised.
The decision of the trade union committee of the “Uzplodovoschvinprom” concern states that, on the basis of the decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated August 19, 1992, and the decision No. 203 dated June 21, 1989 [year] of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the privatisation of STATE HOUSES as their own property, as well as documents of the commission organised at the Kuylyuk greenhouse for the privatisation of the house where Tatyana Peregudova lives, it was decided to PROVIDE HER AS OWN PROPERTY HOUSE No. 2 (the address follows), with a total area of 78.1 sq.m. “The house (…) to transfer as own property.” Signature of the chairperson of the trade union M. Salimov, round seal.
The following document: an order dated December 24, 1992, issued by the director of the Kuylyuk greenhouse facility, Mehriddin Akhmedov, “On the sale as the private property of house No. 2 located (address follows))”: “1. At the disposal of the greenhouse economy “Kuilyuk” of Zangiata region (…) private house No. 2 in which the citizen Tatyana Anatolyevna Peregudova lives (…) TO TRANSFER TO HER PRIVATE PROPERTY. (…) Round stamp. Signature.
Note that no one calls house # 2 “the house of operators, as it will be in the future when the agricultural firm intends to take it away.
A year later, Tatyana Peregudova (since 1999 Zhilkina), based on the decision of the khokim of Zangiata region dated June 21, 1993 “On the privatization of housing stock belonging to enterprises and organisations located on the territory of Zangiata region”, was granted ownership of a part of the land plot with an area of 0.323 hectares. State order No. 016-01 / 2063 of June 21, 1993, confirms that Tatyana also owns the living quarters located at the address indicated in the document.
Half of the house, behind the wall, was privatised by the electrician Alexander Sablin who lived there. In 2010, he decided to move to live with his children in Russia and sold his part of the house and a land plot of 12 acres to Valijon Temirov who lived nearby. Thus, both parts of the common house were privatised by two different owners, that is, there is no talk of any fraud on their part during the privatisation process, although some formal mistakes may have been made in the design (probably due to the fault of the BTI). However, at that time the head of the greenhouse farm M. Akhmedov, as can be seen from the documents, did not at all object to the transfer of the house to the ownership of the people living in it.
And 15 years later, Mehriddin Akhmedov, who in 1995 transformed the greenhouse economy into a private enterprise, suddenly demanded the return of the “illegally occupied” territory.
It turned out that the khokim of Zangiata district Khasan Nurmatov, by his decision of April 2, 1998, approved the ownership of the private enterprise “Agrofirm Kuylyuk” on 81.4 hectares of land, with a car service station located there, car wash, vulcanization, “operator’s house” (this is how the house of the Zhidkins and Temirovs was referred in the document), a hairdresser’s, a building for weddings, a kindergarten. And in accordance with the decision of the khokim of the district Akmal Isaboev No. 928 dated July 24, 2008, the agricultural firm was given the title to a land plot of 2973.24 sq. m., with all the objects mentioned above, its registration was also carried out in the State Cadastre. So the house of the Zhilkin / Temirovs ended up in someone else’s property, which they did not even suspect.
That is, the khokim, a kind soul, took and gave as a “gift” a large land plot of land to the head of a private enterprise, either simply out of friendship because M. Akhmedov is a good person, or for some other reason. And ten years later, another khokim registered the firm’s right to this property.
However, it isn’t easy to agree with this: yes, it is possible that once houses with plots were on the balance sheet of the STATE economy, but since then they have been privatised – and they certainly never belonged to a PRIVATE agrofirm, created two years after this privatisation, so the heads of the district disposed of other people’s property. The first khokim has long disappeared from sight, and the second, according to Temirov, now heads the president’s public reception in the Tashkent region.
“The private agricultural firm Kuilyuk wants to take away our houses and household plots,” says a letter to the prosecutor’s office of the Tashkent region, written by members of both families. – The main “instrument” in this matter is the decision of the khokim of the district No. 928 of 2008 adopted in the interests of the management of the agricultural firm or by agreement with him. In accordance with this decision, they (the owner of the firm and his lawyers – ed.) Took away the household plots of some residents, built shops, canteens and sold (…). Even the building for holding weddings, built at the expense of the population living in the makhalla “Sohibkor” and which was the property of the makhalla fund, they included in this order and sold to entrepreneurs. “
Valijon Temirov reports that Akhmedov was prosecuted for such tricks and, in November 2013, by the judgment of the Tashkent Regional Criminal Court, was found guilty of a number of crimes under Articles 165 (Extortion), 167 (Theft by embezzlement), 168 (Fraud), 184 (Tax evasion …), 186 (Production, storage, transportation for the purpose of marketing or sale of goods, the performance of work or provision of services that do not meet safety requirements), 189 (Violation of the rules of trade or provision of services), 209 (Official forgery), 210 (Taking a bribe), 211 (Giving a bribe), and 243 (Legalization of proceeds from criminal activity) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
But he served a sentence no more than four years, and in 2017 he was released. “When he returned, he took up his ‘profession’ again – continue the authors of the letter. – And already in 2018, he began to demand. In court hearings, the representative of the company, using the expressions “arbitrarily appropriated land”, “arbitrarily appropriated house of operators” in relation to us, are trying to expose us as criminals. And who is really guilty? For what reason, the khokim of the district, having called our house, in which our family has lived since 1971, “the house of operators” makes a decision in favour of the agricultural firm? Why are the employees of the Cadastral Service of the Zangiata District, despite the fact that our house has formalised documents, in the repeated order, prepare documents [for its registration] and call it the “house of operators”?”
THE PROSECUTOR IS AGAINST
In the summer of 2019, an attempt was made to resolve the issue of the disputed property in favour of the Zhilkins. On June 18, the khokim of Zangiata district A. Tamikayev issued a decision # 4133, recognising the ownership of Tatyana Zhilkina’s house and garden plot.
It was notified that in pursuance of the decree of the President of Uzbekistan dated April 20, 2018 “On additional measures for social support of citizens and the holding of a one-time nationwide action to recognize the ownership of unauthorised residential premises”, it prescribes to recognize the right to life-long inheritable ownership of 0.14 hectares of land with buildings and structures, yard plots (…), citizen Zhilkina Tatyana Anatolyevna (…).
But the agricultural firm was on the alert and immediately filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor of Zangiata district N. Abdullaev intervened and on September 11, 2019, filed a protest to cancel the decision of the district khokim. According to the prosecutor, it was adopted contrary to the requirements of the government decree “On measures to ensure the execution of the decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated April 20, 2018 (…)”.
Khokim Tamikayev did not argue with the prosecutor, and complaisant, with his new decision of November 20, cancelled the previous one, which recognised the right of ownership of the disabled family to the house and land.
The prosecutor, however, sent a response to the appeal of Valizhon Temirov and his family members, which contained a strange phrase: “Today, buildings and structures located on these disputed land plots are overlapping (overlay).” What this could mean was not explained. Presumably – that the khokim donated to the agricultural firm a part of the property that ALREADY BELONG TO OTHER OWNERS.
Another application from Tatyana Zhilkina and the Temirov family was submitted in October 2019 to the administrative court of the Zangiata district of the Tashkent region. They asked to declare illegal the decisions of the khokims of 1998 and 2008. However, this statement was never taken into account by anyone, and the administrative court did not take place.
FIRST COURT HEARING
In 2019, a representative of the Kuylyuk agricultural company filed a lawsuit, demanding the return of the “unauthorised land plot” of 0.323 hectares and the eviction of the Zhilkins from the “operator’s house”. Three or four sessions took place, and one was visiting, in the Zhilkin’s yard. There was no sign language interpreter, and his task had to be performed by 8-year-old Laura, the granddaughter of Tatiana Zhilkina. Neighbour Vali Temirov was not allowed to attend these court sessions.
The Zhilkin family did not have a lawyer.
“The disability pension is small, there is no job, and there is no way to hire a lawyer,” explains Tatiana.
On December 13, the Zangiata Interdistrict Court for Civil Cases of the Tashkent Region, chaired by Judge D. Murodova, in the presence of interpreters Dmitry Dementov and M. Zokirova, completed the consideration of the civil case at the suit of the Kuylyuk agricultural firm.
Her representative T. Amanov explained that the state order submitted by the defendants was invalid due to the lack of ownership of this order (it occurs at the time of state registration – ed.). For this reason, the property must belong to the private enterprise that he represents.
A detail characterising the “justice” being administered: the text of the court’s decision notes that representatives of the Land Management and Real Estate Cadastre Service of the Zangiata region, as well as the privatisation department did not appear at the meeting, as a result of which the case was considered without their participation. Think about it: the court is considering the case of eviction of a family of deaf and dumb disabled people WITHOUT KEY EVIDENCE. As a result, “having studied the materials of the case”, judge Murodova satisfied the claims of the agricultural firm.
The court decision mentions that the State Act No. 016-01 / 2063 of June 21, 1993, confirming the ownership of housing, contains the text of an agreement on its purchase and sale, and the agreement itself is included in the state register of Zangiata region; the house (the address follows) was transferred to Tatyana Peregudova, who bought it from the Kuylyuk greenhouse for five thousand three hundred soums.” At the same time, the archival certificate indicates that due to the failure to receive the grounds for these decisions in archival storage, there is no possibility of confirming those who participated in the privatisation process.”
And then an unexpected conclusion follows: “Taking into account that the evidence of the privatisation of the conflicting land plot with an area of 0.323 hectares and the houses of the operators in the name of the defendant were not presented, despite the existence of state order, the right of ownership was not formalised, the claims of the plaintiff are considered reasonable, [ and] the court made a decision (…) to take away from the defendant Zhilkina Tatyana Anatolyevna the house of operators (…) and hand over to the private enterprise Agrofirma Kuylyuk and the defendant Zhilkina Tatyana Anatolyevna and her family members to be evicted from the disputed house ”.
They say that the one who puts forward claims to someone’s property does not need to prove anything, the burden of proof falls on the one whose property they want to take away.
“The judge violated all procedural norms,” Tatiana Zhilkina commented on this decision. – The court session was in Uzbek, without an [official] sign language interpreter. I was not even provided with the statement of claim of the plaintiff – the agricultural firm “Kuylyuk”. Therefore, I don’t know what was discussed at the trial. Judge Murodova also issued her decision in the state language. I was not explained my rights under the law, I was not told that I have the right to appeal within 20 days, so we did not use our right to appeal.”
“FOR” AND “AGAINST”
It is clear from the court’s decision that the judge did not even think about checking the compliance of the khokim’s decisions with the current legislation, as well as how they intersect with the privatisation of real estate carried out before these decisions. After all, khokims are the support of President Mirziyoyev, they are now almost saints, respectively, all their decrees are holy scriptures.
With this court decision, there is no explanation at all how the company, created AFTER the privatisation of houses and adjacent plots, suddenly began to own this property. The year of the creation of the private agricultural firm is not named (because it was created only a few years after the privatisation). This question is deliberately and purposefully bypassed.
The adoption of a decision in the absence of representatives of organisations who could bring full or partial clarity does not fit into any framework.
Further, why does the judge all the time refer to the houses of the Zhilkins and Temirovs as “operator’s houses”? Yes, this is what the agricultural firm calls them, but it is not the ultimate truth. When privatised, they were just houses # 2 and # 2a. But the court must be objective and not take the side of the plaintiff in advance. We see that the arguments about the illegality of the cancellation of privatisation are not taken into account, and the documents confirming the right to own the house and the adjoining plot are ignored.
The neighbours of the two families, in a statement written on January 1, 2019, confirmed the illegality of the name used by the Kuylyuk agricultural firm and deliberately misleading the members of the court:
“We are … 72-year-old Shomirzaeva Etibor, living at (…) since 1967, 72 -year-old Egamberdieva Dilobar, living at (…) since 1970, 86-year-old Ibragimov Turgun, living at (…), we assure that houses No. 2 and No. 2a on Sohibkor Street, owned by T.A. Peregudova and S. Temirova. V., called the “operator’s house” by the private agricultural company “Kuilyuk”, have never been the “operator’s house”, did not perform the functions and tasks of the “operator’s house”; since the completion of construction, employees of the city electric grid enterprise (TashGorPES) live there with their families. (…) We give full confirmation of this ”(signatures).
According to article 187 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan “Acquisition prescription”, “a person who is not the owner of the property, but in good faith, openly and continuously owns real estate for 15 years, acquires the right of ownership of this property.” The Zhilkins not only owned it for 50 years – 10 times more than the specified period – but since 1993 have been its owners, which is reflected in the cadastral documentation.
Moreover, according to a number of legislative and regulatory acts in Uzbekistan, it is forbidden, up to criminal liability, to invalidate or cancel privatisation. And on November 20, 2019, President Mirziyoyev issued a decree on improving the business environment and improving the business support system, according to which the initiation of issues on revising and cancelling the results of denationalisation and privatisation qualifies as a violation of the inviolability of private property, and such cases should not be taken into consideration. …
So the judge’s decision to deprive the Zhilkins of the ownership of the house and plot was clearly biased. And, by the way, the mention of the “overlay” has gone somewhere from his text.
“The constitution states that Uzbekistan is a humane democratic state with the rule of law, striving to ensure a decent life for the citizens of the republic,” Tatyana writes in a letter to the General Prosecutor of Uzbekistan. “Our family has lived this worthy life for 50 years, and now, thanks to Judge Murodov, our family of disabled people of the 2nd disability group has been “worthily” thrown out into the street to die.”
Tatyana appealed to the Commissioner of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Ombudsman) for the rights of the child, Aliya Yunusova, explaining that she lives with her husband and minor children in the house that they want to take away from them. On March 11, Aliya Yunusova met with the Zhilkin family. After examining the documents, the decisions of the khokimiyats and the court order, she noted that there is a reason for cancelling the court decision since during the consideration of the case it committed a number of gross violations.
“Firstly, it is not taken into account that the whole family – 5 people, two of whom are minor children, are deaf people. The court did not ensure the participation of the prosecutor, the (qualified) sign language interpreter and the translator (Uzbek-Russian) did not participate in the court. Under our law, all children have the right to housing. That is, today the decision to evict them without providing equivalent housing, without providing compensation, is a gross violation of human rights, including the rights of the child.”
There was a reaction to the ombudsman’s statement. Prosecutor of Zangiata district N. Abdullaev, on whose protest the decision of khokim Tamikayev, granting Zhilkin ownership of the house and land, was cancelled on January 7, 2020, filed a protest against the decision of the Zangiata interdistrict court. That is, he instantly “changed his shoes” and, in fact, protested his previous protest. At the same time, he continued to call the controversial house “the house of operators.”
In the new protest of the prosecutor, it was said that the decision of the Zangiata Interdistrict Court for Civil Cases, the claim of the plaintiff of the state of emergency of the agricultural firm “Kuylyuk” (…) should be cancelled on the following grounds.
“The court of first instance (…) came to the wrong conclusion about the transfer of the living quarters (…) and the land plot (…) to the private enterprise“ Agrofirma “Kuylyuk”, as well as the eviction [of the Zhilkin family],” writes prosecutor Abdullaev. – Whereas, on the basis of the state order No. 016-01 / 2063 dated 06.21.1993, confirming the rights of Peregudova (Zhilkina) Tatyana Anatolyevna in relation to private property, the living quarters located at (…) BELONGS TO HER. The court of first instance did not take into account the fact that if the defendant T. Peregudova (Zhilkina) had the right of ownership in respect of the dwelling (…), THIS RIGHT WAS NOT ABOLISHED. Taking into account the above (…) the decision of the court shall be canceled”.
“OPEN” CLOSED COURT HEARING
After the protest of the prosecutor Abdullaev, in the spring, a meeting of the Tashkent Regional Civil Court was held. Tatyana insisted that they return the house and 14 “acres” of the local area, selected following the results of the first trial, but still occupied by her family. However, soon in connection with the epidemic of COVID, forced “self-isolation” was declared, so that the next meeting on the lawsuit of the company took place only after a long break – since 17 June.
According to Tatyana Dovlatova, a human rights activist who was present, Judge Nigora Musaeva, having started the session in Uzbek, did not bother to acquaint the DEAF defendant Tatyana Zhilkina with her rights and obligations, ignoring the Civil Procedure Code of Uzbekistan. The prosecutor entered the courtroom for only five minutes and did not ask a single question. In court, his surname was not even announced, it was found out only after the end of the session – Sherali Fayziev. The representative of a private agricultural firm, which made claims to the plot of the Zhilkin family, also did not introduce himself. Again, Tatyana Zhilkina was not allowed to get acquainted with the documents he was shaking in front of the judges.
Valizhon Temirov, Zhilkina’s neighbour and co-defendant, was not admitted to the “open” court hearing – on the weighty grounds that he is not a witness, but also a defendant. Although according to the law, everyone who wishes can be present at open hearings, he was the defendant at another process.
I attended the third court session on June 24. They had to break through with a scandal, although the trial was officially open. The judge’s assistant Sardor Murtazaev did not want to let me and human rights activist Dovlatova for a long time (then she was kicked out of the hall under a trifling pretext). But Temirov was not allowed in again, although there were empty seats in the hall.
The court left a painful impression. Judge Golib Vakhidov turned a deaf ear to Tatyana Zhilkina’s request to hear the case in Russian. But it is also true that the sign language interpreter Zulfiya Seitakhmetova also translated from Uzbek. The judge asked primitive questions as if he hadn’t even bothered to familiarize himself with the case. For example, he asked when the privatisation was carried out, who participated in it, how many children Tatyana has, is there a marriage certificate, etc. But all the answers to these questions were in the case materials, and they were repeated many times.
And again at the meeting, the judge said that the buildings and structures on the disputed land plot were overlapped, so the court needed to figure out what kind of overlay it was and where it came from. This is where it ended. The following, in connection with the introduction of another quarantine, did not take place, and so far the process has not resumed.
The representative of the agricultural firm did not want to talk to me, as a representative of the press, but redirected me to Akhmedov. My personal impression: they all agreed on everything perfectly, and the appearance of the journalist was an unpleasant surprise for them.
It is clear that the judges are looking for violations during privatisation, which previously did not bother anyone, only because they are afraid to discuss the legality of the decision of the khokim who provided a large land plot to the owner of a private company. Although if you dig, then every second one can find some mistakes when registering property – they missed some meters here, they were not registered there. However, such omissions are not at all a reason to take away property and transfer it to individuals instead of correcting mistakes. This is called raiding, and we have just such an attempt at raider seizure using the official position of the khokim – in all its glory.
The original article in Russian was published on AsiaTerra by Alexey Volosevich.