Imprisoned Uzbekistani blogger Otabek Sattoriy has been denied a transfer to less harsh prison conditions after being found guilty of violating prison rules, stated International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) today. The two organisations urge the Uzbekistani authorities to cease putting pressure on the blogger and reverse the politically motivated 6.5-year sentence he is currently serving.
In a joint statement issued on 23 March 2023, IPHR and AHRCA raised concerns about charges against Sattoriy for allegedly violating internal prison rules (Articles 105 and 106 of the Uzbek Penal Enforcement Code). When the statement was issued the court hearing had been scheduled for 30 March at Novoi City Criminal Court. At the time, the authorities denied that a hearing was due to take place. However, we recently learned that a hearing did in fact take place a few days after it was originally scheduled – on 5 April 2023.
The hearing of 5 April concerned a request by Sattoiry to be transferred to a penal settlement colony close to his home, which has less harsh rules including more family visiting rights. As he has served a third of his sentence, he was entitled to request such a transfer. The court hearing reportedly lasted for only a few minutes, and the judge of Navoi City Criminal Court informed Sattoriy that his request had been rejected because he had allegedly violated prison rules. This ruling also means that Sattoriy will not have the right to submit a new request to be transferred to a prison settlement colony or to have the length of his custodial sentence reduced during the next six months.
According to new information received by our organisations, the alleged violations of which Sattoriy were accused concern an incident on 10 March 2023, when Sattoriy allegedly broke prison rules by going to the canteen alone before eating by himself. As a general rule, prisoners are expected to visit the canteen and eat together with other prisoners. However, Sattoriy suffers from food allergies and therefore receives special food, and, prisoners who are prescribed special diets, including those with food allergies are allowed to eat separately from other prisoners.
Additionally, in early April 2023 Sattoriy was reportedly warned that he might be held accountable for another alleged “violation” of prison rules for supposedly attempting to sell a hand carved wooden box made by another prisoner. Commercial activities are prohibited for prisoners. Sattoriy denies this accusation, saying that he only drew some sketches of patterns on the computer for a fellow prisoner who intended to make a box present for his fiancée, but later sold the box once it was ready. This ‘’violation’’ could potentially be used to further deny Sattoriy the right to have his sentence reconsidered.
IPHR and AHRCA consider the recent developments in Sattoriy’s case part of a campaign of pressure against the blogger and his family. We urge the authorities of Uzbekistan to stop pressuring the blogger and to overturn the prison sentence passed against him on 10 May 2021 in apparent retaliation for this exercise of freedom of expression and release him from prison, as requested by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Please see our statement from March 2023 for more background details on this case.