TASHKENT -- A court in Tashkent has refused to release from house arrest Miraziz Bazarov, a blogger and rights activist arrested who was severely beaten by unknown attackers in March last year.
The Mirobod district court in the Uzbek capital rejected a motion by Bazarov's lawyer to free the blogger during his trial, which started on January 20.
Journalists say they were not allowed to be present at the trial because they did not provide PCR tests to prove they did not have the coronavirus, adding that they had not been told that such tests were required.
Representatives of foreign embassies and officials from the European Union and United Nations were allowed in the courtroom.
Bazarov's lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, told RFE/RL that the judge ordered all people present at the trial to refrain from commenting to the media about the proceedings or to reveal the process in any way until the trial is over.
Bazarov was hospitalized in March 2021 after he was brutally attacked by unknown men hours after a public event he had organized in Tashkent for fans of Korean pop music and Japanese anime was disrupted by dozens of aggressive men.
He suffered an open leg fracture, a severe concussion, and multiple internal and external injuries.
Later, he became a suspect in a slander case. A religious cleric, two pro-government bloggers, and a schoolteacher filed a lawsuit against Bazarov, accusing him of lying about them on his blogs.
Bazarov has been known for criticizing the Uzbek government on his Telegram channel.
Among other issues, Bazarov has also publicly urged the government to decriminalize same-sex sexual conduct, which remains a crime in Uzbekistan.
Bazarov has openly said that he is not an LGBT activist but believes that being gay is a personal issue and therefore no laws should consider it a crime.
Bazarov has also criticized President Shavkat Mirziyoev for insufficient anti-corruption efforts and has questioned the efficacy of ongoing restrictions to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020, Bazarov was questioned by State Security Service investigators after he called on the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank on Facebook not to provide loans to Uzbekistan without strict control over how the funds are used.
Bazarov had told RFE/RL that he had received many online threats before the attack, which he had told police about, but he said law enforcement did not take any action.
If convicted, Bazarov may face up to three years of parole-like restricted freedom.