A court in Uzbekistan sentenced a local blogger on Monday to 6.5 years in prison, finding him guilty of libel and extortion in a case that has drawn the attention of Western governments and media rights activists.
Blogger Otabek Sattoriy, known for criticising local authorities in his home province of Surkhandarya in southern Uzbekistan, has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyer has called the case fabricated.
“We are absolutely unhappy with the decision. This was an absolutely unfair sentence. After receiving a copy of the verdict, we will definitely file an appeal and continue (fighting),” lawyer Umidbek Davlatov said on a Youtube video recorded after the verdict.
Sattoriy’s arrest and trial drew attention of rights watchdogs and western diplomats, who voiced their concern over freedom of speech in the Central Asian nation that has been hailed in recent years for opening up to the world and carrying out liberal reforms.
The United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists urged Sattoriy’s release shortly after his arrest in January, and the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Tim Torlot, has also expressed concern about his case.
In response, Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs warned commentators of responsibility for interfering with the investigation of the criminal case.