TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan's Interior Ministry has blamed Miraziz Bazarov, a well-known rights activist and blogger, for "provoking" an attack that left him in the hospital with severe head and leg injuries.
In a video statement placed on YouTube on March 29, the ministry claimed that Bazarov was attacked after he called on "individuals with nontraditional sexual orientation" to hold mass demonstrations near the Hazrati Imam mosque and Amir Timur avenue in downtown Tashkent.
Bazarov, who was attacked by three masked men near his apartment block in Tashkent late on March 28, remains in the hospital in very serious condition.
According to the latest statement by physicians at the Tashkent Traumatology Hospital, Bazarov sustained open and closed traumas to his skull, an open fracture of the right leg, and numerous bruises to his body.
The ministry said in its video that Bazarov "had deliberately ignored" social-behavior rules by distributing videos with contents "not typical for the Uzbek nation," and "demonstrating his perverted behavior to the society."
"[Bazarov], acting with the assistance and support of destructive external forces and ill-intentioned international nongovernmental organizations, attempted to propagate homosexualism and similar evils, despite the fact that it is banned by Uzbek law, and created the atmosphere of protest and intolerance," the ministry’s statement said.
Bazarov is known for his criticism of the Uzbek government on his Telegram channel.
Among other issues, Bazarov has publicly urged the government to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct, which is considered a crime in Uzbekistan.
Bazarov has said several times that he is not an LGBT activist, but believes that being gay is a personal issue and that laws should not be created to regulate it.
Pop Music Event
His mother, Miraziza Bazarova, who was allowed to see her son on March 29, told RFE/RL that she was shocked to see the severity of injuries her son sustained.
"There must be no place for such brutality and violence in our society. I met with law enforcement officers. They promised to find and punish the attackers. I hope very much that they will," Bazarova said.
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Uzbek photographer Timur Karpov told RFE/RL that Bazarov was attacked when he was approaching his home with his girlfriend, Nelya. According to him, the couple had noted that they had been followed by a vehicle for several days before the attack.
Hours before the attack, a weekly public event for fans of Japanese anime and Korean pop music, which Bazarov organizes each Sunday, was disrupted by dozens of aggressive men who chanted Allah Akbar! (God is great!).
The Interior Ministry’s video statement said that incident was the result of Bazarov's "provocative" statements.
"As a result, on March 28, a group of our citizens who considered [Bazarov's] calls as an insult, gathered on Amir Timur avenue," and "created a situation compromising public safety by staging mass disorders," the ministry said, adding that "individuals responsible for the disorder have been apprehended."
The ministry did not say whether any of those apprehended were also involved in the attack on Bazarov.
Bazarov has been critical of President Shavkat Mirziyoev for failing to rein in corruption and has questioned the efficiency of ongoing restrictions to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Last summer, Bazarov was questioned by State Security Service investigators after he called on the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank not to provide loans to Uzbekistan without strict control over how the funds are used.
Bazarov had told RFE/RL that in recent weeks he had received many online threats. Despite informing police of the threats, no action was taken by law enforcement, he said.
Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and the U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum have condemned the attack against Bazarov and urged Uzbek authorities to thoroughly investigate it.