Uzbekistan. According to Countryaah.com, Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan, a country located in Central Asia. The political change under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev continued in 2018. In January, the powerful head of the security service MXX, heir to the Soviet KGB, was dismissed. The MXX chief was seen as a rival to Mirziyoyev of power and was one of the last influential men from the circle of the president and dictator Islam Karimov.
Opposition politician and human rights activist Isroiljon Xoldorov was released in February after nearly twelve years in prison. Xoldorov led the opposition party Erk in the city of Andizhan and was a major source of information about the Andizyan massacre in 2005, when security forces killed hundreds of protesters.
In February, after 19 years in prison, journalist Yusuf Ruzimuradov was also released. In a trial that was considered politically motivated, he had been convicted of attempting to overthrow Karimov’s regime. Ruzimuradov was believed to have served a longer sentence than any other journalist in the world.
In March, neighboring countries met Uzbekistan and Tajikistan’s presidents and then decided, among other things, to abandon the visa requirement for travel across the common border. Later in the year, the two countries began joint mine clearance in the border area. Many people have been killed and injured by landmines deployed in 2000 by Uzbekistan to prevent militant Islamists from crossing the border.
Human rights activist Gaybullo Jalilov was released in March after serving eight years in prison. He had been sentenced to 13 years accused of plans for terrorist attack, a judgment that, according to Human Rights Watch, was political with fabricated evidence. Jalilov was reported to have been subjected to regular torture in prison.
At the same time, in March, human rights activist Musajon Bobojonov was sentenced to three years’ conditional imprisonment for publishing material that threatened security and public order. He rebuffed the allegations, saying he had never promoted religious extremism.
Journalist Bobomurod Abdullajev denied accusations of having planned to overthrow the government in another notable trial, which was seen as a test of President Mirziyoyev’s will for reform. Abdullaev was threatened with imprisonment for up to 20 years.
In May, opposition activist Fahriddin Tilleyev, who served four years, was released from an eight-year prison sentence on human trafficking charges. He was released just before President Mirziyoyev would make an official visit to the United States.
In June, a former chief of the security service MXX was sentenced to 14 years in prison for torture and abuse of power. Several of his employees were sentenced to long prison terms on similar grounds. Torture was used extensively during the previous regime, and President Mirziyoyev has promised to try to end that legacy. In a decree, he has banned courts from using evidence obtained through torture, but charges of torture have continued.
Journalist Muhammad Bekjon was released in July after nearly 18 years in prison. He was previously editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Erk, fled abroad but was kidnapped in Ukraine in 1999, taken to Uzbekistan and convicted of involvement in an alleged terrorist attack on Karimov.
Before the two-year anniversary of Karimov’s death in September, orders were issued that his name should no longer be mentioned in state radio and TV. Journalists stated that they were threatened with punishment if Karimov’s name was mentioned in their program. Instead, journalists said they had been called upon to praise the new president.
In September, an imam in Tashkent who called for increased religious freedom was dismissed. He had posted a video on Facebook urging President Mirziyoyev to allow more religious freedom, including lifting the ban on women’s main scarves and men’s beards.
A prominent human rights activist and outspoken critic of Karimov returned to Uzbekistan in September after more than ten years in exile in France. Tolib Yoqubov fled the country in 2007 for fear of his safety. The now 78-year-old activist was allowed to return to his home country a few weeks before President Mirziyoyev would visit France.
Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation signed major economic cooperation agreements when President Vladimir Putin visited Tashkent in October. Among other things, Russian Rosatom will build Uzbekistan’s first nuclear power plant for the equivalent of SEK 100 billion.
President Mirziyoyev fired a deputy prime minister in October after a video revealed how he humiliated a group of farmers and local government officials during an inspection trip. As punishment for their failure to irrigate wheat fields, the minister forced them to stand for a long time in a water-filled ditch and then run in wet clothes.