Uzbekistan imprisons demonstrators due to discontent against the government
22 persons, including a journalist, were given varied prison sentences by an Uzbek court for the fatal uprising that occurred in the independent Karakalpakstan republic in July.
Plans to reduce the province's autonomy led to the protests, which resulted in the deaths of twenty-one individuals. In the midst of the protests, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ultimately abandoned those proposals.
Mirziyoyev faced a choice in the wake of the violence: to uphold the legitimacy of his government or to soften it in order to project the more liberal image he has long tried to convey to the West.
In the 36 million-person nation, the defendants were convicted guilty on Tuesday of crimes ranging from hooliganism to intrusion on the constitutional order.
The primary defendant, lawyer Dauletmurat Tajimuratov, who was charged with instigating the disturbances, was given a 16-year prison term. The only other defendant, 44-year-old Tajimuratov, disputed charges like paying individuals to attend protests and had not entered a full plea of guilty.
Journalist Lolagul Kallikhanova, another important defendant, was given a three-year sentence with probation and released in front of the jury.
Despite the defendants receiving severe terms, Steve Swerdlow, a human rights attorney and authority on Uzbek issues, noted on Twitter that there was "no indication whether authorities plan to even charge any law enforcement officers" for the 21 fatalities.
Out of a population of 35 million, Karakalpakstan is home to less than two million people, yet it also makes up more than a third of Uzbek territory.
One of the greatest environmental disasters caused by human activity, the drying Aral Sea, is strongly related to the impoverished area.
Karakalpakstan has its own governing body, national anthem, flag, and parliament.
The trial, held in the city of Bukhara, began on November 28. The majority of the proceedings were streamed live online and to the press room at the courthouse.
Except for Tajimuratov, practically all of the defendants apologized to the government, the legislature, and Mirziyoyev at the start of the trial.
The protests, which broke out on July 1 and 2, 2016, and resulted in hundreds of arrests, have been attributed by the president to unnamed "foreign forces."
In 2016, after the passing of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev took the helm.
Even though his government is accused by rights organizations of violating people's fundamental rights, he has pushed through important economic and social reforms.
After confirming dozens of videos and images of the protests and victims, Human Rights Watch stated in early November that the government "unjustifiably used fatal force… to disperse mostly peaceful demonstrators."
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