Uzbekistan releases political activist after two decades in jail

By bne IntelliNews November 13, 2015

Uzbek authorities released political activist Murod Jurayev, who has been in jail for 21 years and considered one of the world's longest-serving political prisoners, on November 12, the US State Department confirmed on November 12.

His release comes less than two weeks after US State Secretary John Kerry met Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Ahead of Kerry's visit to Central Asia, the France-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) wrote an open letter to Kerry on October 29 calling on the US secretary of state to raise the issue of jailed political activists, including Jurayev, during his discussions with Uzbek officials, according to the AHRCA’s website.

Jurayev was originally imprisoned for 12 years in 1994 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government - his sentence later got cut to nine years. However, the sentence was extended at least on four occasions due to violations he had allegedly committed in prison. Rights activists consider the extensions of Jurayev’s sentence to be arbitrary and politically motivated.

Jurayev, an ethnic Turkmen, was an Uzbek lawmaker as well as an active member of the opposition party Erk in 1991 and 1992. The leader of Erk, Muhammad Salih, who challenged President Islam Karimov in the country's only competitive presidential election in 1991, has been living abroad to avoid political persecution since 1993.

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