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Uzbekistan Drops Controversial Case Against Journalist, Gifts Him An Apartment

Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev was detained in Kyrgyzstan in August and later extradited to Uzbekistan.

Uzbek journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev has announced that a controversial criminal investigation against him has been dropped.

The United States, which had expressed concerns over the fate of Abdullaev, welcomed the decision.

"Received news today that criminal charges against journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev have been dropped. Very happy for him & his family," U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum wrote on Twitter on October 23.

As President Shavkat Mirziyoev has said, "independent media is indispensable to a healthy democracy and the work of journalists must be absolutely protected," Rosenblum said.

Abdullaev announced in a video on Facebook on October 23 that investigators had dropped their case against him.

The development came just a week after Abdullaev revealed that Mirziyoev had given him a three-room apartment in Tashkent's Green Park residential complex.

Abdullaev was detained in Kyrgyzstan in August and later extradited to Uzbekistan.

The United States and human rights groups had expressed concern that he would be subjected to persecution and possible torture in Uzbekistan. However, when he arrived in Uzbekistan he was immediately released under supervision pending an investigation.

Uzbek investigators never specified the exact nature of the charges against the 47-year-old independent journalist.

Media reports in Uzbekistan suggested Abdullaev was being sought in connection with social-media posts critical of Mirziyoev that were written under the pen name Qora Mergan (Black Shooter).

Abdullaev has denied that he has any connection to the writings.

Abdullaev's treatment has previously been the focus of rights groups after he and three other men were arrested in 2017 in Tashkent. They were charged with calling for a change to Uzbekistan's constitutional order by force.

Those charges stemmed from a series of articles under the byline Usman Haqnazarov, which was apparently used by more than one person.

Abdullaev also denied guilt at the time, saying he was doing his job as a journalist.

In May 2018, Abdullaev was convicted on charges of producing "anti-government propaganda." But he was cleared of the more serious charge of conspiracy against the state -- and was then released.