The trial of an Uzbek journalist who says his jailers tortured him and told him his children would be raped or killed has been postponed until later in the week.
Journalists, opposition activists, and human rights advocates gathered outside a Tashkent court on March 5 in anticipation of the trial of Bobomurod Abdullaev and three co-defendants, but it was postponed until March 7.
The judge, Zafar Nurmatov, gave no reason for the postponement of the trial of Abdullaev, blogger Hayot Hon Nasriddinov, and businessmen Ravshan Salaev and Shavkat Olloyorov.
A freelance journalist who has contributed to the news agency Fergana 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 he was tortured into making self-incriminating statements.
Mayorov, who met with his client in jail on March 3, said that Abdullaev was tortured for several days after he was detained on the street in the capital by the National Security Service (MXX) on September 27.
"They beat him on his back, his legs, and along his left arm with a meter-long plastic pipe. The worst torture was that they forced him to go six days without sleeping. For the entire duration of the six days, they didn't allow him to sit or lie down," Mayorov said. "The third form of torture was beating him on his back and head with a computer cable."
According to Mayorov, Abdullayev was kept naked in his cell for several days and subjected to psychological torture including threats 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.
The charges against Abdullaev and his co-defendants stems 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 late former President Islam Karimov, who ruled the Central Asian country with an iron fist for more than a quarter-century before his death in 2016.
The trial is seen as a test of 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 the MXX -- which enforced Karimov's autocratic rule in the former Soviet republic.
In February, 12 human rights groups called for Abdullaev's immediate release and an independent investigation of allegations that he was tortured.
Last month, Abdullaev's case was transferred from the MXX to the Prosecutor-General's Office. Around the same time, Abdullaev, was granted the right to a lawyer after being denied access to an attorney for months.
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 MXX and Interior Ministry.
In October, Human Rights Watch said that Uzbek authorities had taken "some positive steps" during Mirziyoev's first year but still needs to make "sustainable" improvements on human rights.