Uzbekistan releases political prisoner after 8 years

18 Oct 2017 / 17:53 H.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Uzbekistan has released a human rights activist who spent eight years in jail, on charges which rights groups called trumped up, one of several prominent political prisoners released since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power.
Ganikhon Mamatkhonov received a five-year sentence on fraud and bribery charges in 2009 but saw it extended on two occasions by two years each time, a common practice in the authoritarian country.
Global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch described his arrest at the time as "clearly a set up" while calling for his release.
International rights groups monitoring the release of political prisoners in the country hailed Mamatkhonov's release on Monday after just over eight years in jail.
"This is long awaited and good news," Nadejda Atayeva, head of the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, told AFP in written comments on Tuesday.
"Mamatkhonov was released slightly ahead of schedule on humanitarian grounds," she added.
Mamatkhonov is the tenth activist to be released since Mirziyoyev came to power after dictator Islam Karimov died of a stroke in 2016, Atayeva said.
Uzbekistan surprised many by inviting Human Rights Watch back into the country earlier this year, seven years after cooperation between the government and the group broke down.
Nevertheless, Atayeva said at least ten political prisoners — rights activists and journalists — are known to be still behind bars in the country, while around 10,000 people remain imprisoned on fabricated charges.
Prominent rights activists freed under Mirziyoyev include former United Nations staffer Erkin Musaev, whose release after 11 years in prison was confirmed in August, and former lawmaker Samandar Kukanov, released after more than two decades behind bars last year.
All of the released political prisoners were jailed during the 27-year reign of late despot Karimov who took charge of the country before its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Mirziyoyev, who served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years, has made several moves to distance himself from his predecessor's hardline policies, including relaxing unpopular restrictions on travel and currency exchange.
Nevertheless, analysts do not expect him to allow significant space for political opposition, civil society or a free press to operate. — AFP

thesundaily_my Sentifi Top 10 talked about stocks