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Two Karakalpak Activists Sentenced to Lengthy Prison Terms in Absentia Over Protests

Two self-exiled activists from Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan region have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms over last year’s mass protests in the local capital, Nukus.

The press secretary of the Supreme Court, Aziz Obidov, said on May 10 that Amanbai Sagidullaev and Nietbai Orazbaev were sentenced to 18 years and 12 years, respectively, on charges of attempting to disrupt the constitutional order, organizing mass unrest, distributing materials posing a threat to public security, and inflicting bodily harm.

Sagidullaev was also found guilty of an attempted attack on President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

The 55-year-old Sagidullaev, who is the leader of the Karakalpakstan movement Alga (Forward), is currently in Norway, where he received political asylum.

Orazbaev, 53, is believed to currently be in Kazakhstan.

In late January, an Uzbek court sentenced 22 Karakalpak activists to prison terms on charges including undermining the constitutional order for taking part in the mass protests in Karakalpakstan in early July 2022.

The jailed group included Dauletmurat Tajimuratov, a lawyer for the El Khyzmetinde (At The People’s Service) newspaper, where he was previously the chief editor. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

In March, another 39 Karakalpak activists accused of taking part in the protests in Nukus were convicted and twenty-eight of them were sentenced to prison terms of between five and 11 years, while 11 defendants were handed parole-like sentences.

Uzbek authorities say 21 people died in Karakalpakstan during the protests, which were sparked by the announcement of a planned change to the constitution that would have undermined the region’s right to self-determination.

The violence forced Mirziyoev to make a rare about-face and scrap the proposal.

Mirziyoev accused “foreign forces” of being behind the unrest, without further explanation, before backing away from the proposed changes.

Karakalpaks are a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.

The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the violence.

Source: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty