Blogger Fozilkhoja Arifkhojaev, sentenced to 7.5 years, was released before end of term. The chief of the Ezgulik Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Abdurakhmon Tashanov was the first to announce this on December 6.
According to him, the blogger was released from a colony in the Navoi province on parole.
He will reportedly be under the supervision of employees of the Probation Service - for any violation he could be returned to the colony again, his relatives noted.
Fozilkhoja Arifkhodjaev's case
Fozilhoja Arifkhodjaev, 41, has repeatedly and harshly criticized civil servants, government policies in the religious sphere, as well as the imams of some mosques, sometimes using obscene words.
On June 26, 2021, Arifkhodjaev came to the Tukhtaboy mosque in the Almazar district, where religious blogger Abror Abduazimov (aka Abror Mukhtor Ali) was giving a sermon, and called him a “hypocrite.” It is worth noting that the conflict between them has been going on for several years; they have repeatedly spoken out against each other on social networks, including using offensive words.
After the incident in the mosque, Fozilhodja Arifkhodjaev was arrested for 15 days under Article 183 of the Code of Administrative Responsibility (petty hooliganism).
According to a religious examination of materials conducted by experts from the Committee on Religious Affairs under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan, some of his publications on Facebook were recognized as “propaganda the ideas of religious fundamentalism.”
The Investigation department of the Tashkent city police department opened a criminal case for the Production, storage, distribution or display of materials containing a threat to public safety and public order using the media or telecommunications networks, as well as the Internet charge (punishable by imprisonment from 5 to 8 years).
On January 26, 2022, the Almazar district criminal court found Fozilhoja Arifkhodjaev guilty of this charge and sentenced him to 7 years and 6 months in prison.
The defendant’s lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, said that a criminal case had been opened against Arifkhodjaev for reposting a publication dated March 6, 2021, which included a commentary on “whether it is appropriate for a Muslim to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious holidays,” in particular, International Women’s Day (March 8).
The Human Rights Watch said that Arifkhodjaev’s detention is “arbitrary and violates international law.”
“Expressing a religious opinion in a Facebook post about whether Muslims can or should congratulate members of other faiths on their religious holidays may be controversial to some, but it is certainly not a crime, and furthermore, [freedom of] speech is protected international human rights standards,” the human rights organization said in a statement.
Lawyer Sergei Mayorov filed an appeal and noted that the religious studies examination of the materials was carried out with violations, but the decision of the trial court remained unchanged.