The lower house of Uzbekistan’s parliament has approved the second reading of a controversial bill that would toughen punishment for resisting law enforcement, as the tightly controlled former Soviet republic is heading to a presidential election scheduled for October 24.
The Legislative Chamber says the draft legislation was approved on August 9.
To become law, it must go through a final third reading at the Legislative Chamber and be endorsed by the upper house, the Senate, before being signed into law by President Shavkat Mirziyoev.
The bill, proposed by the Interior Ministry in April, envisages fines of up to $230 for those resisting law enforcement officers -- compared to $115 currently.
Maximum prison terms and suspended sentences with parole-like restrictions would increase from one to three years.
During the debates in the Legislative Chamber, lawmakers representing the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan raised concerns about the bill, arguing that the proposed maximum fines were too high for ordinary Uzbek citizens.
They also said that there were many cases in recent years where police actions were illegal, especially in cases of forced demolition of houses and eviction.
Mirziyoev took over the country after his authoritarian predecessor, Islam Karimov, died in 2016.
Since then, Mirziyoev has positioned himself as a reformer, releasing political prisoners and opening his country to its neighbors and outer world, though many activists have cautioned that the reforms have not gone far enough.
Though Mirziyoev has said he is not against having opposition political groups in Uzbekistan, it has been nearly impossible for any genuine opposition party to be registered in Uzbekistan since the country gained independence in late 1991.