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Uzbek Writer Reportedly Detained Upon Return From Exile

Nurullo Otahonov is known by his pen name Nurulloh Muhammad Raufhon.
Nurullo Otahonov is known by his pen name Nurulloh Muhammad Raufhon.

Uzbek writer Nurullo Otahonov returned to Tashkent on September 27 after two years of self-imposed exile in Turkey and was detained by police upon arrival, his wife says.

Gulnara Otahonova told RFE/RL that her husband was detained at the airport and taken to a police station in handcuffs.

Otahonova added that police informed her later that her husband was detained due to a probe launched into the content of his book, titled These Days, that was deemed as extremist by the government's Committee for Religious Issues.

Otahonov, who is known by his pen name Nurulloh Muhammad Raufhon, told RFE/RL before leaving Istanbul that he decided to return to Uzbekistan after President Shavkat Mirziyoev's recent public call on all Uzbek intellectuals living abroad to return.

Otahonov, 63, started experiencing problems in Uzbekistan after he was fired 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. While there, he published a book titled These Days that criticized Uzbekistan's development after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

"My friends advised me not to return to Uzbekistan for some time then," Otahonov told RFE/RL.

In August, Mirziyoev's government announced that thousands of people had been taken off a blacklist that was established during the late autocrat Islam Karimov's presidency and named Uzbeks whose presence in the country was deemed to be undesirable.

The death of Karimov, who had ruled with an iron fist since 1989, was announced in September 2016. Mirziyoev was appointed acting president and 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