Uzbekistan Should Free Imprisoned Lawyer

“Onward, Karakalpaks!,” shouted blogger and lawyer Daulet Tazhimuratov from his glass cage in the Tashkent courtroom on June 5, minutes after his appeal trial concluded and a judge left his 16-year prison sentence intact.

Fourteen other defendants standing trial with Tazhimuratov for alleged crimes in connection with July 2022 protests in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan’s autonomous region, had their sentences either reduced or converted to noncustodial “restricted freedom” terms. Eight of the defendants were released from the courtroom.

Karakalpakstan’s constitution states that Karakalpakstan is “a sovereign democratic republic” with the right to “secede from the Republic of Uzbekistan on the basis of a nation-wide referendum held by the people of Karakalpakstan.” Tazhimuratov’s position against constitutional amendments proposed in 2022 that would have stripped Karakalpaks of this right were not separatist, as the state argued, but constitutionally protected, his lawyer, Sergey Mayorov, explained to the court during the hearing. There is video evidence that Tazhimuratov called for peaceful protests, not instigated an uprising.

Human Rights Watch has not seen any comments by Tazhimuratov in the lead up to the Karakalpakstan events that would constitute speech that could justifiably be criminalized under international human rights law. Expressing a political opinion and calling for peaceful protests is protected speech.

The difference between the court’s handling of the other defendants, all of whom expressed remorse for their alleged actions, and Tazhimuratov, who maintained his innocence and mounted an active defense in court, was stark.



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Uzbekistan Should Free Imprisoned Lawyer