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Rashidjon Qodirov served as the country's top law enforcement official for 15 years.

Amnesty International says former Uzbek Prosecutor-General Rashidjon Qodirov who is on trial on corruption charges is at risk of being subjected to torture.

On April 8, Amnesty distributed a letter addressed to Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev urging him to "ensure [Rashidjon Qodirov] and his 12 co-defendants are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and that they have prompt access to necessary and adequate medical care."

The letter quoted "credible reports," saying that his detention on February 21, Qodirov "has been subjected to physical abuse, mock executions, sleep deprivation and other ill-treatment."

Amnesty called on those concerned by the defendants' situation to either write personal appeals to Mirziyoev or use its letter as a model to "urge [him] to launch an impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against" Qodirov and his co-defendants.

Qodirov's trial behind closed doors started in Tashkent in early January. He was arrested in February 2018 and charged with extortion, bribery, and abuse of office.

Qodirov's arrest came about three years after he was fired amid a purge of officials connected to the investigation of Gulnara Karimova, the eldest daughter of late President Islam Karimov.

Qodirov, who served as the country's top law enforcement official for 15 years, was the prosecutor-general in 2014 when Karimova was detained and charged with corruption.

Her arrest came after reports emerged first in Swedish media in 2013 that Karimova used her position to serve as a gatekeeper for international telecom companies looking to invest in Uzbekistan.

Uzbek officials said later that Karimova was sentenced in December 2017 to a 10-year prison term. But the following July, the sentence was reclassified to house arrest and shortened to five years.

Uzbekistan became isolated and economically stagnant under Karimov, who tightly ruled the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since Karimov's death in 2016, his successor Mirziyoev has publicly criticized government agencies and has taken steps to dismiss or remove many officials in power during Karimov's rule.

Weeks before Qodirov's arrest, Mirziyoev removed the long-serving head of the country's powerful SNB security service, Rustam Inoyatov.

Volodymyr Balukh appears in court in Crimea in July 2018.

Ukrainian activist Volodymyr Balukh, who is serving a five-year prison term in Russia on charges he and his supporters say are politically motivated, has been placed in solitary confinement.

The Crimean Rights Defense Group nongovernmental organization quoted Balukh's sister, Nadia, as saying that officials at the Correctional Colony No. 4 in the western Russian town of Torzhok had informed her on April 9 that her brother had been placed in solitary confinement for 15 days on April 4.

She said the colony guards refused to pass food and clothing parcels to Balukh, and told her that inmates placed in solitary confinement could not receive items from their relatives.

It is not clear why Balukh was placed in solitary confinement.

The 48-year-old activist was initially arrested in December 2016 in Russia-annexed Crimea. He was convicted on a weapons-and-explosives possession charge in August 2017.

His conviction and nearly four-year prison sentence were reversed on appeal and returned to a lower court, which issued the same verdict and sentence in January 2018.

A new case against Balukh was opened in March 2018, after the warden of the penal facility in Crimea where he was held sued him, claiming that Balukh attacked him.

In July, a court found Balukh guilty of the second charge and ruled that he will serve a total of five years in prison for both convictions.

In October, the top regional court reduced Balukh's five-year prison term by one month.

Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries, after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power by protests.

Rights groups say that since then, Russia has moved aggressively to prosecute Ukrainian activists and anyone who questions the annexation.

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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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