Mehliboyev, a contributor to the state-owned weekly Hurriyat, was being held in a penal colony in the central city of Zarafshan. He was arrested in the capital, Tashkent, while reporting on a rally held in support of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
In February 2003, seven months after his arrest, a court in Tashkent convicted Mehliboyev of anti-constitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, a term that an appeals court reduced by six months.
Prosecutors introduced a 2001 Hurriyat article as evidence of his alleged crimes. In the article, Mehliboyev argued that instead of building a Western-style democracy in Uzbekistan, authorities should consider introducing religious rule. Prosecutors insisted in court that his arguments reflected the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir. At trial, Mehliboyev repeatedly said he was assaulted by guards at the pretrial facility where he was being held, local and international human rights groups reported at the time.
Mehliboyev was later sentenced to an additional prison term. In September 2006, the Tashkent regional court sentenced him to six more years on extremism charges, the independent news website Uznews reported. Prison authorities claimed the journalist advocated Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas to other inmates and kept religious writings in his cell. Mehliboyev denied the accusations; he said he had kept only private notes detailing mistreatment in prison.
Officials at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington did not respond to CPJ’s October 2011 request seeking updated information about Mehliboyev’s status and well-being.