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Karakalpak human rights activist Aqylbek Muratbai (Akylbek Muratov) was charged for a peaceful memorial event in November 2023 and sharing a video of an OSCE ODIHR speech of another Karakalpak activist

On 17 February, Aqylbek Muratbai, a 35-year old blogger and a human rights advocate from Karakalpakstan, was detained for 40 days. Despite having legal representation from the Kazakh Buro for Human Rights, Aqylbek’s court hearing proceeded without his lawyer being informed. Based on Uzbekistan’s extradition request, the court approved his arrest. At the moment, Aqylbek is in Almaty’s pre-trial detention center number 18. 

Aqylbek is charged under Articles 244, part 2, paragraph “b” and 244-1 part 2, paragraph “g” of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code: 

– a public call for mass riots and violence against citizens using mass media, telecommunications networks, the worldwide Internet information network, as well as printed or other means of reproducing text and is punishable by a fine of three hundred to four hundred basic calculation values or correctional labor from two to three years or imprisonment from five to ten years. 

– Dissemination in any form of information and materials containing ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism, calls for pogroms or forced eviction of citizens or aimed at creating panic among the population, as well as the use of religion for the purpose of violating civil consent, spreading slanderous, destabilizing fabrications and committing other acts directed against established rules of behavior in society and public safety, as well as the dissemination or demonstration of attributes or symbols of religious extremist, terrorist organizations using mass media or telecommunications networks, as well as the worldwide Internet information network and are punishable by imprisonment from five to eight years.

The charges of “public calls for mass unrest and violence” are brought against Muratov for a memorial event in honor of 500 days since the events that occurred in July 2022 in Nukus. The memorial rally took place on November 13, 2023 – Karakalpak activists asked participants to turn off the lights for 16 minutes – the number of years in prison given to human rights activist Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov. The charges of “production or demonstration of materials containing a threat to public safety” were brought against him for publishing a video of Karakalpak activist Koshkarbay Toremuratov’s speech at the OSCE conference in October 2023.

Aqylbek Muratbai and Koshkarbai Toremuratov

Aqylbek is a blogger and human rights defender who expresses opinions regarding mass arrests and advocates for justice for Karakalpaks. Aqylbek and his family have faced relentless persecution from Uzbek authorities for years. Muratbai received an advice from an Uzbek diplomat last year at the Uzbek consulate in Almaty. The diplomat, an adviser to the Uzbek consul-general, warned Muratbai to “soften the tone” of his statements relating to Karakalpakstan, a sovereign republic which is a part of Uzbekistan where protests were held in 2022 against Uzbek authorities effort to revoke its sovereign status which ended in a lethal state crackdown against the unarmed peaceful protesters.

Aqylbek Muratbai’s arrest is an attempt to silence dissent and suppress advocacy for justice and human rights in Karakalpakstan and is a part of Uzbekistan’s far reaching transnational repression against Karakalpaks living abroad – said Leila Seiitbek, a representative of Freedom for Eurasia

All charges against Aqylbek Muratbai must be dropped and he must be immediately released. We also demand sanctions against individuals issuing and executing unlawful orders in regard to Aqylbek Muratbai, including Uzbek police official Baimurzaev Muhamedin Orazbayevich, who according to our information heads the anti-terrorist department in the Ministry of Interior in Karakalpakstan and is involved in the case of another Karakalpak activist Bagdat Ismailov.

Furthermore, Freedom for Eurasia has made an urgent communication on the situation of Aqylbek Muratbai to UN Special rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Freedom of peaceful Assembly and Associations, Minority Issues, On the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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