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Detained Uzbek Writer Released From Jail


Uzbek writer Nurullo Otahonov and his son Fayzulin Otahonov

Uzbek police have released writer Nurullo Otahonov after detaining him last week on his return from exile.

"It happened so quickly -- [police] took me from jail and brought me home -- that I could not realize what was happening," Otahonov told Reuters by telephone on October 1.

"I felt it was real when they knocked on my door to let me in my home,” he added. “My family is so excited, everyone is happy."

His son, Fayzulin Otahonov, wrote on Facebook that his father was escorted home by the head of Tashkent's Yashnabad district police department.

The 63-year-old author said police did not tell him the reason for his release or whether the criminal case against him was dropped.

However, Uzbek website Kun.uz cited a deputy chief of Tashkent city police, Doniyor Tashkhojaev, as saying Otahonov was released because his alleged involvement in terrorism was not confirmed and the arrest warrant was lifted.

Otahonov, who is known by his pen name Nurulloh Muhammad Raufhon, returned to Tashkent on September 27 after two years of self-imposed exile in Turkey.

He was detained by police upon arrival at Tashkent International Airport and remained in custody on sedition and extremism charges that reportedly stem from his two-year-old book, titled These Days.

Officials have said the charges included public calls to overthrow Uzbekistan's government, producing or possessing extremist religious material, and possessing symbols of religious extremist and terrorist organizations.

His book, published from exile in Turkey in 2016, criticized decades of policies under longtime President Islam Karimov -- whose death was announced in September 2016 -- including the Uzbek leader's crackdown on Islam.

It was deemed extremist by the government's Committee for Religious Issues in May, eight months after President Shavkat Mirziyoev took the reins of government in one of post-Soviet Central Asia's more repressive systems.

Otahonov started experiencing problems in Uzbekistan after he was sacked from his posts as director of the Movarounnahr publishing house and chief editor of the magazine Hidoyat in 2013.

He went to Turkey in 2015 at the invitation of a publishing house.

Mirziyoev won a five-year term in a tightly controlled presidential election in December.

His government has released some people widely seen as political prisoners, taken steps to improve ties with neighboring Central Asian countries, and established channels aimed at improving communication between citizens and the authorities.

With reporting by Reuters and kun.uz

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