Uzbek journalist Dilmurod Said freed early after years in jail

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Uzbekistan has freed a prominent reporter who spent close to a decade in jail, the journalist told AFP Monday, feeding hopes for a thaw in one of the former Soviet Union’s most repressive states.

Dilmurod Said, 56, who was jailed in 2009 on embezzlement and forgery charges he always contested, said he was released on Saturday as part of a presidential amnesty.

“Yes, I have been freed. I am at home now,” he told AFP by telephone.

Said said he intends to return to work “focusing on human rights issues” once he has finished a course of treatment for tuberculosis, which he contracted in jail.

Said, whose case had been raised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and numerous human rights organizations, was jailed for 12.5 years in 2009.

Months after he was sentenced, his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident and his mother also died during his time in jail.

Said is one of more than a dozen prominent journalists and rights activists that have been released since the death of veteran leader Islam Karimov in 2016.

Opposition journalist Muhammad Bekjanov spent 18 years behind bars -- one of the longest prison stretches suffered by a reporter worldwide -- before he was released last February.

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