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Watchdog says Uzbekistan failed to investigate alleged mistreatment of jailed blogger

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Uzbek authorities have failed to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture of Uzbek Muslim blogger Fozilxoja Orifxojaev in prison.

Orifxojaev, known for his articles criticizing the Central Asian nation’s authoritarian government for its restrictive religious policies, was sentenced on January 26 to 7 and a half years in prison in a post on Facebook.

The Tashkent judicial press service said that the 41-year-old blogger has been condemned after the Olmazor District Court found him guilty of “distributing or displaying material containing a threat to public security and public order using mass media, telecommunications or the Internet”.

The court convicted Orifxojaev “for something a lot of people do every day: posting an innocuous message on Facebook,” HRW said in a Jan. 28 statement.

Orifxojaev was arrested in June last year on small hooliganism charges following a heated confrontation in public with a blogger and a pro-government cleric.

Orifxojaev was sentenced to 15 days in prison for this, but he was not released after serving his sentence and instead additional charges were filed against him.

HRW said Orifxojaive’s health had deteriorated during his seven months in pretrial detention, and on January 25 he went on a four-day hunger strike to protest the injustice in his case. , said his lawyer, Sergey Mayorov.

Mayorov also told HRW that police abused his client both physically and psychologically, including some treatment that amounted to torture. For example, in late September, according to Mayorov, police handcuffed Orifxojaev to a pipe and made him sit in a stressful position for nearly 12 hours, causing him excruciating pain.

The allegations are among those that HRW says authorities have so far failed to investigate.

Human rights groups have urged Uzbek authorities to drop all charges against Orifxojaev and release him, calling the case against him politically motivated.