TASHKENT -- A prosecutor has asked a court in Tashkent to sentence independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev to five years in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Uzbek government.
The prosecutor also asked the Tashkent City Court late in the afternoon on May 2 to acquit Abdullaev's co-defendants -- blogger Hayot Hon Nasriddinov and businessmen Ravshan Salaev and Shavkat Olloyorov.
The prosecutor's request came ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
The high-profile trial is seen as a test for the new government of President Shavkat Mirziyoev, who has promised to carry out reforms in the Central Asian nation.
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 former President Islam Karimov, who ruled the Central Asian nation of more than 30 million people for more than a quarter of a century before his death in 2016.
Abdullaev, who was arrested in September, denies the charge, saying that he was doing his job as a journalist.
In February, 12 human rights groups called for Abdullaev's immediate release and an independent investigation of allegations that he was tortured.
Mirziyoev, who took over the country in 2016, has carried out reforms in the government, particularly in 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.
However, in its latest report released on March 28, HRW stated that journalists and other critics of the government in Uzbekistan remain under pressure from legal restrictions, politically motivated prosecutions, and fear-induced self-censorship.