TASHKENT -- A prominent Uzbek human rights activist and outspoken critic of late President Islam Karimov has returned to Uzbekistan after spending more than a decade in exile in France.
Tolib Yoqubov was greeted by his relatives, friends, and fellow rights activists at the Tashkent airport on September 26.
Fearing for his safety, the founder of the Uzbek Human Rights Society fled the country in 2007 and the authorities withdrew his citizenship in 2014.
Yoqubov told RFE/RL that officials at the Uzbek Embassy in Paris contacted him in mid-August to inform him that he could come to Uzbekistan with one-year visa.
The 78-year-old activist is the holder of a French passport.
It was not immediately clear whether his Uzbek citizenship will be reinstated.
Yoqubov was allowed to return to Uzbekistan ahead of President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s expected visit to France next month.
Mirziyoev has been vowing to improve Uzbekistan's dismal human rights record and shaking up government structures -- in particular the powerful security service and Interior Ministry -- since he came to power following the death of long-ruling Karimov in 2016.
In July, Uzbek authorities allowed journalist Muhammad Bekjon to leave the country more than a year after his release from prison.
The 64-year-old journalist had spent almost 18 years behind bars.