DUSHANBE -- Once one of Tajikistan's most influential businessmen, Rajabali Odinaev, who is serving a 28-year prison term on embezzlement charges many consider to be politically motivated, has undergone stomach surgery after his health deteriorated.
The head of Tajikistan's Penitentiary Service, Mansurjon Umarov, told RFE/RL on March 25 that Odinaev was rushed from prison to a hospital in Dushanbe two weeks ago, where he underwent an operation on his stomach after developing an ulcer.
"Experienced doctors are monitoring his health condition now. He will be very likely transferred back to prison soon," Umarov said.
A physician at the Dushanbe Ambulance Center confirmed to RFE/RL that Odinaev had been taken to a hospital in the Tajik capital.
Odinaev's Umed-88 company, established in 1997, dominated the Central Asian nation's energy market for almost a decade until its closure in 2017 following the arrest of the businessman.
In September 2018, Odinaev was found guilty of embezzlement, abuse of office, and financial mishandling. He was then sentenced to 24 years in prison. Last year, a court in Dushanbe added four more years to his prison term.
Odinaev's relatives have insisted that the case against him is baseless.
Many in Tajikistan believe that Odinaev was imprisoned in order to remove his company from the market as it was a serious competitor to the local energy giant Faroz and Russia's Gazprom.