Free After Nine Years, Uzbek Activist Says Tortured In Prison

An Uzbek journalist and rights activist says he was tortured in prison and is looking forward to getting on with his life after nine years behind bars.

Dilmurod Sayyid, 56, was released on February 3.

He is one of several people widely considered political prisoners who have been freed since President Shavkat Mirziyoev came to power in 2016, after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov.

Sayyid told RFE/RL that he was very grateful to the activists, journalists, and human rights groups that pushed for his release.

"In those nine years I experienced different kinds of pressure, including psychological and physical torture," Sayyid said after his release.

"Now all of those things are behind me and I am looking forward to moving on with my life, to freely expressing my thoughts and opinions," he said.

An independent journalist and member of Tashkent-based human rights group Ezgulik (Compassion), Sayyid was known before his arrest for writing articles that were critical of the economic and social situation in Uzbekistan.

He was arrested in 2009 on charges of fraud and forgery, and sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison in July of that year.

Months after Sayyid was sentenced, his wife and six-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident on their way from Tashkent to visit him in prison in the city of Navoi.

Sayyid told RFE/RL that he maintains his innocence and will seek full exoneration.

Mirziyoev was named acting president in September 2016, after Karimov's death was announced, and was then elected to a five-year term in a tightly controlled vote in the Central Asian country.

In October 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Uzbek authorities had taken "some positive steps" during Mirziyoev’s first year in office and called for "sustainable" improvements in human rights.

It said that "grave abuses," including torture and politically motivated imprisonment, "remain widespead" in the former Soviet republic.

Karimov had been in power since before Uzbekistan gained independence in the 1991 Soviet collapse.