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Uzbek Official Gets Two Years In Prison For Failing To Prevent Woman's Self-Immolation

NAMANGAN, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek official has been sentenced to two years in prison for failing to act when a woman set herself on fire in the Central Asian nation's eastern city of Namangan after being evicted from her home.

The Namangan City Court said on March 18 that the previous day it found a bailiff of the branch of the Prosecutor-General's Office in the city, Jobir Sobitkhonov, guilty of inactivity that led to the death of 35-year-old Gulandom Dedabaeva, who set herself on fire protesting her eviction from her house in September.

Sobitkhonov was sentenced the same day.

Dedabaeva's death on September 29 shocked the country and caused a public outcry.

When local authorities came to evict the single mother of two boys from the house she bought in 2018, Dedabaeva poured gasoline on herself and made a 13-minute statement accusing local authorities and a court of illegally taking her house away. She then set herself on fire.

Sobitkhonov was standing next to Dedabaeva and ignored her threats to set herself on fire. Although the flames were extinguished, Dedabaeva sustained severe burns and died hours later in a local hospital.

In recent years, there have been several self-immolation acts performed by Uzbek men and women to protest evictions in different parts of the country. Many of the acts have resulted in the deaths of the protesters.

Dedabaeva's case started in June when a court in Namangan ruled that even though she paid for the house, the money was given to a person who in fact was not the owner of the property but a relative of the real owner.

The court also said that the person who "sold" the property to Dedabaeva had used forged documents showing he was the property's owner.

The court then ruled that Dedabaeva must pay $12,700 to the real owner within three months and placed her under house arrest for four years and two months for "illegally" purchasing the property.

After Dedabaeva refused to pay the sum, saying she had already paid $13,000 for it, authorities arrived on September 29 to evict her.

The latest self-immolation act was performed by a 42-year-old woman, Fatima Usmanova, in the eastern city of Ferghana, when local officials came to evict her from her house in January.

Usmanova survived as her neighbors managed to extinguish the blaze.