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Lars Nyberg (left) with his lawyer at a Stockholm court (file photo)

STOCKHOLM -- Three former executives of telecom giant Telia have been acquitted in Sweden in a high-profile bribery case involving the eldest daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

Former chief executive Lars Nyberg and two other defendants went on trial in September on suspicion of paying $350 million to Gulnara Karimova in return for a mobile-phone license in Uzbekistan for their company, which was then called TeliaSonera.

The Stockholm District Court acquitted the trio on February 15.

According to the court's decision, the text of which RFE/RL's Uzbek service obtained, the trio was found not guilty as it has not been proven that Karimova held any official position connected to the telecom sector, which has been the prosecutor's main argument.

Nyberg along with Telia's former adviser for Eurasia, Olli Tuohimaa, and the company's former deputy chief, Tero Kivisaari, were charged in 2017 after the Stockholm-based company agreed to pay nearly $1 billion in penalties to help settle the years-long corruption probe.

Telia is not the only international telecom company that has been accused of bribing Uzbek officials.

In February 2017, Dutch-based VimpelCom, which is controlled by a Russian-owned holding company, agreed to pay $795 million to resolve U.S. and Dutch bribery charges.

Karimova, 46, was once a high-profile socialite, fashion designer, pop singer, and ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva who was seen as a potential successor to her father, who ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist for 25 years. Karimov died in 2016.

But she vanished from sight as she found herself at the center of a financial-crimes probe in Uzbekistan in which many of her associates have been jailed.

The Uzbek Prosecutor-General's Office said last year that Karimova was sentenced to five years of "restricted freedom" in 2015 after she and several associates were convicted of crimes, including extortion, embezzlement, and tax evasion.

Karimova has additionally been charged with several other crimes, including financial misdeeds, forgery, and money laundering, a statement said.

Multiple previous reports have indicated she has been under house arrest since 2014.

Kherson regional council head Vladyslav Manher attends a court hearing in Kyiv on February 12.

KYIV -- A high-ranking regional official suspected of organizing the killing of Ukrainian anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk last year has been arrested.

The Shevchenko district court in Kyiv at about 3 a.m. on February 15 ordered that Vladyslav Manher, head of the regional council in the southern region of Kherson, be held in pretrial detention until March 3 or pay a 2.5 million-hryvnya ($91,000) bail. He has been charged with organizing a contract murder with "special cruelty."

Manher was transferred to a detention center. His lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.

The Prosecutor-General's Office announced on February 11 that Manher was a suspect in the high-profile case.

Handzyuk, a 33-year-old civic activist and adviser to the mayor of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, died in November -- three months after she was severely injured in an acid attack.

WATCH: Kateryna Handzyuk died six weeks after making an impassioned video from her hospital bed, in which she listed dozens of attacks on civic activists that police have failed to resolve.

A Ukrainian Activist's Deathbed Plea
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The killing outraged Ukraine, with activists accusing the authorities of failing to complete the investigation or identify the mastermind.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said on February 11 that prosecutors had obtained enough testimony from witnesses about Manher's alleged role in Handzyuk's death, adding that the attackers had received "no less than $4,000."

According to a document posted by Lutsenko on Facebook, Manher felt "personal enmity" toward Handzyuk because of her efforts to expose "illegal deforestation" in the region.

If convicted, the 48-year-old Manher could face up to life in prison.

Manher said earlier this week in a televised interview that he had nothing to do with the deadly attack.

Five suspects, including a police officer, were detained last year on suspicion of involvement in the attack on Handzyuk.

Two of them have been placed in pretrial detention, and the others are under house arrest.

Handzyuk's death came amid a wave of attacks on Ukrainian civic activists. Human rights activists have accused law enforcement agencies of failing to thoroughly investigate the cases and even of possible complicity in some of the attacks.

The United States and the European Union have called the attacks unacceptable and urged the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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