TASHKENT – The lawyer of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov, says prison authorities have refused to grant him access to his client, “most likely” because they do not want him to see her health condition.
Gregoire Mangeat told RFE/RL that Gulrukh Karimova, the warden of the women’s prison in Zangiota district, near the capital, Tashkent, told him in person that he could not see his client on July 18.
Mangeat said prison authorities requested a document proving that he was Karimova’s lawyer. After handing them a power-of-attorney document, he said prison officials told him he needed written permission from Swiss authorities to defend Karimova.
“Nobody has ever asked me to show that kind of a document before,” said Mangeat. “As far as I understood, they want to keep me as far away as possible from my client."
Mangeat said two inmates died in the Zangiota prison in the past few days.
An Uzbek official, speaking to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, said the two inmates died in the prison from blood loss and high blood pressure after they were denied medical assistance.
The official identified them as Marina Fink and Tojiniso Mamatkulova.
Prison officials did not comment on the deaths.
Mangeat said he was waiting outside the Zangiota jail to see his client on July 18 when several ambulances emerged, which he said raised concerns over Karimova's welfare.
Justice Ministry officials told RFE/RL to contact the Interior Ministry for comment or additional information on the situation at the prison and to speak to the Prosecutor-General's Office for comment on why Mangeat was denied the right to visit his client.
Officials from neither state body were available for comment.
Karimova was jailed in March for violating the terms of her house arrest after receiving a five-year sentence in 2015 on charges of embezzlement and extortion.
Uzbek prosecutors have said they aim to seize more than $1.5 billion in foreign assets held by Karimova, including luxury properties.
Mangeat had said on July 11 that Swiss authorities had put on hold the return to Uzbekistan of $555 million confiscated in connection with Karimova's case.
He said the decision had been made due to alleged violations of Karimova's rights and the denial of medical assistance.
Karimova's daughter, Iman, said on Instagram on the same day that her mother "is not receiving proper medical assistance and is under psychological pressure" in prison.
Iman Karimova also published a letter on her mother's behalf last month saying she needed surgery for unspecified reasons.
Once a socialite, businesswoman, and a pop singer, Karimova disappeared from public view after falling out with her father in 2014, while he was still the country's authoritarian leader.
Islam Karimov ran Central Asia's most populous nation from 1989 until his death in 2016.