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Two Top Former Uzbek Officials Convicted On Corruption Charges

Uzbekistan's former security chief Ikhtyor Abdullaev (left) and ex-Prosecutor-General Otabek Murodov. (file photo)

TASHKENT -- Two top former Uzbek officials have been convicted of corruption in a case involving more than a dozen defendants from the public sector.

Uzbekistan's Supreme Court announced on February 25 that Ikhtyor Abdullaev, the former chief of Uzbekistan's State Security Service, was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of organizing a criminal group, bribe-taking, abuse of office, extortion, the theft of private property, violating customs regulations, and other crimes.

It added in a statement that former Prosecutor-General Otabek Murodov was found guilty of bribe-taking and sentenced to five years of freedom limitation -- a sentence with parole-like restrictions.

Seven other defendants in the case, including former subordinates of Murodov and Abdullaev, were sentenced to prison terms of between 5 years and 17 years, while more than a dozen other defendants received sentences that did not include jail time.

President Shavkat Mirziyoev dismissed Murodov from his post in June, less than four months after removing Abdullaev as security chief.

Abdullaev was appointed as head of the State Security Service in January 2018 after Mirziyoev sacked Rustam Inoyatov, the long-serving security chief who had turned the service into a powerful and feared agency under the late President Islam Karimov.

The Prosecutor-General's Office has been a focus of particular intrigue. Prior to becoming head of the State Security Service, Abdullaev served as prosecutor-general.

In 2017, Mirziyoev excoriated the prosecutor-general’s office, calling officials there "the biggest thieves." Then-Prosecutor-General Rashidjon Qodirov was sacked in February 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison in June last year.

Uzbekistan became isolated and economically stagnant under Mirziyoev’s predecessor Karimov, who ruled Central Asia's most-populous country of 32 million with an iron fist after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since Karimov’s death in 2016, Mirziyoev has publicly criticized government agencies and has taken steps to fire or remove many officials who had held power dating back to Karimov’s rule.