Blogger jailed for seven and a half years in Uzbekistan over Facebook post

A court in Uzbekistan has sentenced a Muslim blogger known for his criticism of the government to seven and a half years in prison for sharing a Facebook post, his lawyer said Thursday.
Activists accuse the Uzbek authorities of tight control over religion in the former Soviet republic, which has a population of 35 million people, Muslims constitute more than 90 percent of them.
Lawyer Sergei Mayorov told AFP that a court in the capital, Tashkent, on Wednesday indicted his client, blogger Fodil Hoga Arif Hogaev, for "producing, storing, distributing or displaying materials that threaten public safety and order."
Mayorov added that the court's attention focused on a post Hogaev shared on Facebook that raised the question of whether it was appropriate for Muslims to congratulate followers of other religions on non-Muslim holidays.
"This was the only crime for which Hogayev was tried," the lawyer emphasized, adding that state experts said that the publication showed that it propagated religious fundamentalism.
Mayorov said the post's author, another Facebook user, then deleted the original copy, noting that "investigators made no effort to contact the original author."
Human Rights Watch in December raised concerns that Arif Hogaev had been mistreated in prison, describing the blogger as "known for his criticism of the restrictive religious policies of the Uzbek government."
More than five years after taking office, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is credited with allowing some limited religious freedoms.
Mirziyoyev's initial reform campaign raised hopes that his government might move away from the repression with which his predecessor and mentor former President Islam Karimov was associated, but rights groups have regularly reported evidence of a decline in recent years.
Last year, a court in Termez sentenced video blogger Otapic Satori to six and a half years in prison for extortion and defamation after publishing a series of critical reports on local authorities.


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