Uzbekistan political prisoner freed after 22 years

Samandar Kukanov, 72, is described by human rights activists as one of the longest serving political prisoners in Uzbekistan was finally released on Thursday (November 24) after 22 years in prison.

Kukanov a former parliamentary deputy was sentenced to 20 years in 1994 on charges of embezzlement after he had become a fierce critic of then president Islam Karimov. Karimov died in September after ruling the Central Asian country of 32 million with an iron fist for over 26 years. Karimov was the first president of Uzbekistan from its independence on 1 September 1991 to his death in 2016. a period of 25 years. However, before that, he was the President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic from 24 March 1990 until he declared the independence ofUzbekistan on 1 September 1991.
The move was a surprise. This could boost the image of Karimov's successor Shavkat Mirziyoyev who is running for president in an election of December 4. In 2014 his term had been extended for 2 more years because he breached prison rules. Although Kukanov's relatives were expecting him to be released last month, instead they received a letter informing them that Kukanov had his term extended again for violating prison regulations. Yet according to rights group Ezgulik, which contacted his family, he was unexpectedly released. A report in the Diplomat claims " Qoqonov’s relatives told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that they had received a call on November 24 informing them that the October court decision which extended the 72-year-old former politician’s sentence by three years and five days had been annulled. " Kukanov's last name can also be spelled "Quqonov".
Mirziyoyev who is acting as the interim ruler is expected to win the December election. Although he amnestied several less prominent political prisoners as well observers expect Uzbekistan's political environment to continue as before under Karimov.


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