The trial that resulted in a five-year sentence for the once high-flying elder daughter of late Uzbek autocrat Islam Karimov lasted less than a day and took place in the kitchen of a house where Gulnara Karimova was being held, her own daughter says.
In a rare interview published by The Guardian on March 12, Iman Karimova filled in some of the blanks in the mystery that her mother's life has become since her arrest by secretive authorities in Uzbekistan in 2014.
The remarks -- describing dramatic developments including commandos rappelling onto a balcony and fruitless efforts by Gulnara Karimova to reach her father, who was alive and in power at the time -- come five days after U.S. authorities charged her with conspiracy to violate foreign-corruption laws, accusing her by name for the first time in an alleged international bribery scheme.
They follow a March 5 announcement by prosecutors that she was being moved to prison for violating the terms of her house arrest, and a statement by her Swiss lawyer, saying that she is subject to "constraints, to arbitrary methods, and to massive psychological pressure."
“Gulnara Karimova has once again disappeared. She is once again subject to constraints, to arbitrary methods, and to massive psychological pressure. Any indictment, regardless the state or the authority which has submitted it, is meaningless as long as an accused person is fully and permanently deprived of her right to defend herself, to access to justice, and to fair trial conditions,” lawyer Gregoire Mangeat told RFE/RL on March 12 in an e-mailed statement.
Mangeat said earlier that Karimova had been "forcibly removed" from the apartment where she had been held in Tashkent and "taken to an unknown place."
Iman Karimova also provided video that apparently showed her mother being dragged out the front door of the apartment in pink slippers.
But most of the information that had not been revealed in public before involved events in 2014-15, earlier in the downfall of the former business executive, diplomat, pop singer, fashion designer, and socialite.
Iman Karimova told The Guardian that the ordeal for both mother and daughter began shortly after she arrived in Tashkent from Britain for a boarding-school holiday early in 2014, when she was 15 years old. One morning during the visit, she said, a team of commandos descended on ropes to the balcony of the Tashkent apartment where they were staying.
Friends who were visiting were marched away with bags over their heads and the commandos confiscated all electronics and documents in the apartment, she said, and Gulnara Karimova "was trying to get through to my grandfather by telephone, but she wasn’t able to.”
In August 2015, Iman Karimova told the newspaper, a judge, prosecutors, and a visibly nervous state-appointed defense lawyer arrived at the home outside Tashkent where she and her mother were being kept at the time and conducted a "court case" that lasted a few hours.
Uzbek authorities said nothing publicly about that process until July 2017, when the Prosecutor-General's Office said that Gulnara Karimova had been sentenced to five years of "restricted freedom" in 2015 after she and several associates were convicted of crimes including extortion, embezzlement, and tax evasion. It said that an investigation on suspicion of other crimes including financial misdeeds, forgery, and money laundering was still under way.
Iman Karimova, 20, now lives in London, where her brother -- named Islam Karimov, like their grandfather -- is also based. The siblings have urged the Uzbek authorities to release their mother.
Gulnara Karimova was once seen as a likely successor to her father, who had ruled the most populous former Soviet republic with an iron fist since 1989, two years before the Soviet collapse, and died in 2016. But she was also dogged by persistent reports of corruption and extortion, exploiting her influence as the president’s daughter.
In 2013, reports emerged first in Swedish media that Karimova used her position to serve as a gatekeeper for international telecom companies looking to invest in Uzbekistan. The reports ultimately led to criminal investigations in Sweden, the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, focusing on major telecom companies.
In its statement on March 5, the Prosecutor-General's Office said that Karimova had at one point been handed a 10-year prison term but that the sentence was later reclassified to house arrest and shortened to five years.