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Prominent Uzbek journalist Bekjon released after almost 18 years in prison

22.02.2017, 16:10

A prominent journalist and political prisoner in Uzbekistan has been released after spending almost 18 years in prison.

Journalist Muhammad Bekjon, 63, told RFE/RL by telephone that he had been released on February 22 upon completion of his sentence.

"It's been just a half an hour since I was released from the penal colony," Bekjon said. "I am fine. Just tired. My hair has become completely white in these 18 years."

Bekjon was editor in chief of the opposition Erk (Freedom) newspaper until he was forced to flee abroad in 1994.

The newspaper was published by the opposition Erk party led by Bekjon's brother, Muhammad Solih. Solih had to flee Uzbekistan for Azerbaijan in 1993 and later settled in Turkey.

In 1999, Bekjon was kidnapped in Kyiv, Ukraine, and brought to Tashkent, where he was convicted of being involved in an alleged terrorist attack targeting then-President Islam Karimov. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, a term that was later reduced by three years.

Bekjon denied the allegations and denounced them as politically motivated.

In 2011, just one month before his release, his prison term was prolonged by four years and eight months for alleged "violations of the penal colony's regulations."

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