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Torture Allegations By Uzbek Journalist 'Not Confirmed' By Doctors, Judge Says

Bobomurod Abdullaev
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.

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