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Uzbek blogger and government critic receives lengthy prison sentence for Facebook post

TASHKENT — Uzbek Muslim blogger Fozilxoja Orifxojaev, known for his posts criticizing the Central Asian state government for its restrictive religious policies, has been sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison for a publication on Facebook.

The judicial press service in Tashkent noted The 41-year-old blogger was sentenced on January 26 after the Olmazor District Court found him guilty of “distributing or displaying material containing a threat to public security and public order using the media , telecommunications or the Internet”.

Orifxojaev was arrested in June 2021 on petty hooliganism charges following a heated public confrontation with a blogger and a pro-government cleric.

Orifxojaev was sentenced to 15 days in prison for this, but he was not released after serving his sentence and instead was further charged with threatening public safety in a Facebook post in early March 2021 in which Orifxojaev discussed whether it was appropriate for a Muslim to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious holidays.

Human rights groups have urged Uzbek authorities to drop all charges against Orifxojaev and release him, calling the case against him politically motivated.

Last week, the Mirobod District Court in Tashkent sentenced another government spokesman, blogger Miraziz Bazarov, to three years on parole for defamation.