Uzbek authorities have accused a Swiss defense lawyer who has provided legal counsel to Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of late President Islam Karimov, of ethics violations, and barred him from entering the country.
In statements to RFE/RL on December 11, Gregoire Mangeat denied the Uzbek allegations and said they were an attempt to distract from how authorities are treating Karimova, who is being held in prison in the Tashkent area.
The clash between Mangeat and Uzbek authorities was the latest chapter in the saga of Karimova, who was once a socialite, businesswoman, and pop singer until she disappeared from public view after falling out in 2014 with her father, then president of the country.
Karimova was accused of bribery and corruption connected to multinational telecommunications companies seeking to start operations in Uzbekistan in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and had been held under house arrest in Uzbekistan since at least 2015.
In March, she and an associate were indicted by U.S. prosecutors for violating U.S. foreign corruption laws.
Days prior to the announcement of the indictment, Uzbek authorities alleged she had violated the terms of her house arrest, and they transferred her to a women’s prison.
In August, prosecutors announced a new criminal investigation against her related to two state-owned cement plants.
Swiss prosecutors, meanwhile, have been conducting parallel criminal proceedings stemming from hundreds of millions of dollars that Karimova allegedly kept in Swiss bank accounts.
Authorities in the Alpine nation had signaled that they were close to agreeing on a deal with Tashkent to send more than $500 million linked to Karimova to Uzbekistan.
But Mangeat, who had been appointed by a Swiss court to represent Karimova and had met previously with Karimova in prison, said in July that Swiss authorities had put those talks on hold.
That same month, he said he traveled to Tashkent to see Karimova, but the warden of the prison blocked the meeting. Mangeat claimed afterward that his client’s conditions in the prison were "intolerable."
He said Uzbek authorities in October had rejected another request to visit her. His last appeal proposed a meeting in January.
On December 10, however, the Uzbek Prosecutor-General’s office released a statement accusing Mangeat of violating his professional ethics by focusing on charges against Karimova other than ones initiated by Switzerland.
The statement also accused him of spreading "false information" about the prison.
In his statement to RFE/RL, Mangeat denied the accusations.
“I have a legal duty to criticize arbitrary proceedings, unfair trials, and to report suspicions of mistreatments, etc. I will thus continue to strongly commit to my professional obligations, irrespective of any defamatory statement regarding the conduct of my activities,” he said.
Uzbek prosecutors have said they aim to seize more than $1.5 billion in foreign assets allegedly held by Karimova, including luxury properties.
Karimova's daughter, Iman, has said in statements posted to her Instagram account that her mother was not receiving proper medical assistance and was "under psychological pressure" in prison.
Islam Karimov ruled Uzbekistan until his death in 2016.
He was succeeded by Shavkhat Mirziyoyev, who has moved to purge many Karimov-appointed and allied officials from top government posts.
He also sought to soften Uzbekistan’s reputation as a corrupt and authoritarian state, and attract Western investment.