TASHKENT: Authorities in Uzbekistan have freed a local journalist whose detention drew rare criticism from the United States this month, but he is still being investigated, his lawyer said on Sunday.
The U.S. ambassador to Tashkent, Daniel Rosenblum, said this month he was “deeply concerned” by the case of Bobomurod Abdullayev and called for his release. Abdullayev was detained in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan at Uzbekistan’s request.
Abdullayev has told Kyrgyz media he was accused of being behind an anonymous Facebook account that published allegations of corruption among senior Uzbek officials. He denied that accusation.
Uzbekistan’s state security service did not confirm or deny the nature of the charges, but said on Sunday he has been allowed to go home after his extradition from Kyrgyzstan on Saturday and subsequent questioning in the presence of a lawyer.
The lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, told Reuters Abdullayev has been released pending investigation. He said a non-disclosure agreement prevented him from commenting on the nature of the charges.
State security also circulated a video in which Abdullayev thanked President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for his release and said he had published no stories attacking the country’s leadership.
Abdullayev came to prominence in a landmark case in 2018 when an Uzbek court cleared him of charges of conspiring against the government, although he was still sentenced to community service for anti-government propaganda.
His case highlighted a thaw initiated under Mirziyoyev following the 27-year rule of his predecessor Islam Karimov who had tolerated no dissent and whose poor human rights record had drawn strong criticism from Western countries.
In power since 2016, Mirziyoyev has overseen a series of major economic reforms and worked to limit the powers of security services while improving ties with both the West and Russia as he seeks to attract foreign investment.