Human Rights Watch (HRW) says authorities in Uzbekistan have failed to investigate Uzbek Muslim blogger Fozilxoja Orifxojaev’s allegations of ill-treatment and torture while in jail.
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 1/2 years in prison over a post published on Facebook.
The judiciary press service in Tashkent said the 41-year-old blogger was sentenced after the Olmazor district court found him guilty of “distributing or displaying materials containing a threat to public security and public order using mass media, telecommunications, or the Internet.”
The court sentenced Orifxojaev "for something many people do every day: posting an innocuous message on Facebook,” HRW said in a statement on January 28.
Orifxojaev was arrested in June last year on petty hooliganism charges over a heated confrontation in public with a pro-government blogger and cleric.
Orifxojaev was sentenced to 15 days in jail for that but he was not released from custody after serving the sentence and instead additional charges were filed against him.
HRW said Orifxojaive’s health deteriorated during his seven months in pretrial detention, and on January 25 he began a hunger strike that lasted four days to protest the injustice in his case, his lawyer, Sergey Mayorov, said.
Mayorov also told HRW that the police have ill-treated his client both physically and psychologically, including some treatment that constituted torture. For example, at the end of September, according to Mayorov, police handcuffed Orifxojaev to a pipe and made him sit in a stress position for nearly 12 hours, causing him excruciating pain.
These allegations are among the ones 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.