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Prominent Uzbek Rights Activist Yoqubov Dies One Year After Returning From Exile

Tolib Yoqubov passed away due to natural causes on November 27 at the age of 79, his family said.

TASHKENT -- A prominent Uzbek human rights activist and outspoken critic of late President Islam Karimov has died in his native city of Jizzakh, a year after he returned to Uzbekistan from France, where he spent more than a decade in exile.

Tolib Yoqubov's relatives told RFE/RL that the activist passed away due to natural causes on November 27 at the age of 79.

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, who became a French citizen, was allowed to come back to Uzbekistan ahead of President Shavkat Mirziyoev's visit to France in October 2018.

Mirziyoev has vowed to improve Uzbekistan's dismal human rights record and shake up government structures -- in particular the powerful security service and Interior Ministry -- since he came to power following the death of Karimov in 2016.

Also in 2018, 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 before being reunited with his family in the United States last year.