Uzbek journalist and dissident Muhammad Bekjanov has been released from prison today after serving 18 years.
The former editor of opposition newspaper Erk, Mr Bekjanov was charged with 15 years’ imprisonment in 1999 for terrorism, in relation to a series of bomb attacks in Tashkent, as well as for publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. He fervently denies all charges.
63-year-old Mr Bekjanov and his colleague Yusuf Ruzimuradov, who remains incarcerated, are believed to have been imprisoned longer than any other journalists in the world.
Both Mr Bekjanov and Mr Ruzimuradov had their sentences extended while they were imprisoned. Although Mr Bekjanov’s sentence had been commuted so that he could walk free in 2012, prison authorities then prolonged his sentence by five years for having allegedly violated prison rules.
According to a BBC report, Mr Bekjanov may owe his release to a change in government policy under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who took over in December following the death of former President Islam Karimov in September 2016.
Source: BBC News