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Bobomurod Abdullaev

TASHKENT -- A judge says that a medical examination has not confirmed torture claims by an Uzbek journalist who is on trial.

Judge Zafar Nurmatov said on March 15 at the trial of Bobomurod Abdullaev that "results of a complex medical examination" on Abdullaev had come back negative.

On March 7, when the trial of Abdullaev and his three co-defendants began, Nurmatov approved the defense team’s request to allow the defendant to undergo a medical examination, after no objections were raised by prosecutors.

The trial of Abdullaev, blogger Hayot Hon Nasriddinov, businessmen Ravshan Salaev, and Shavkat Olloyorov -- is being closely watched by human rights advocates, opposition activists, and journalists as a test of the government’s vow to reform Uzbek society.

A freelance journalist and contributor to the Fergana news agency and other media outlets, Abdullaev is charged with "conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional regime," which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

His lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, said last week that his client was tortured into making self-incriminating statements.

Mayorov said Abdullaev was tortured for several days after he was detained on a street in the capital, Tashkent, by security service officers on September 27.

Abdullayev was kept naked in his cell for several days and threatened that his daughter who lives in Russia would be raped, his other children living in Uzbekistan would be killed, and his wife would be jailed, Mayorov said.

The charges against Abdullaev and his co-defendants stem from a series of articles under the byline Usman Haqnazarov, which has been used by more than one person. The articles touched on issues related to circles close to the late former President Islam Karimov, who ruled the Central Asian country with an iron fist for more than a quarter of a century before his death in 2016.

The trial is seen as a test for President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who has promised reforms, and of his government's commitment to overhauling the justice system and addressing widespread allegations of abuse by security services.

Last month, 12 human rights groups called for Abdullaev's immediate release and an independent investigation of allegations that he was tortured.

Mirziyoev, a longtime prime minister who came to power after Karimov's death was announced in September 2016, has been shaking up the government structures, in particular the powerful security services and Interior Ministry.

In October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Uzbek authorities had taken "some positive steps" during Mirziyoev’s first year but still needs to make "sustainable" improvements on human rights.

Mukhtar Ablyazov

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has imposed house arrest on a woman who is suspected of giving financial backing to an opposition political movement established by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The court ordered house arrest for Aqmaral Tobylova, a resident of Almaty, on March 15. Relatives said that Tobylova, 28, is pregnant.

Tobylova was detained on March 13, the day a separate court ruled that Ablyazov's Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) is an extremist group, saying it "propagates the forcible change of Kazakhstan’s constitutional order."

Officials have not disclosed details about the allegations against Tobylova.

A senior prosecutor, Erlan Abaev, told journalists at the time that criminal cases had been launched against several DVK members across Kazakhstan on charges of inciting social discord and making public calls for the seizure of power.

Ablyazov, a vocal foe of Nazarbaev, and several other Kazakh opposition figures living abroad announced the creation of the DVK movement in April 2017, saying its goal would be "democratic reforms in Kazakhstan."

Wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion, Ablyazov has been living abroad since 2009. He denies any wrongdoing and contends that the case against him is politically motivated.

In June, a court in Kazakhstan sentenced Ablyazov to 20 years in prison in absentia after convicting him of organizing and leading a criminal group, abuse of office, embezzlement, and financial mismanagement.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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