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Uzbek Authorities Release Opposition Activist After 11 Years In Prison

Muhammadali Qoraboev's original sentence was already extended twice, a common practice for Uzbek political prisoners.

Uzbek authorities have released an opposition activist who has spent the last 11 years in prison on charges that his supporters say were politically motivated.

Muhammadali Qoraboev told RFE/RL that his release on October 18 was the result of "ongoing changes in the country."

"There are democratic developments in the country and they are reaching those behind bars as well," Qoraboev said, adding that he planned to renew his engagement in political activities.

The 70-year-old Qoraboev was the branch chief of the banned opposition Birlik (Unity) in the western region of Namangan.

He was sentenced in 2006 to 5 1/2 years in prison on extortion charges that supporters say were unfounded and politically motivated.

Qoraboev said his term was prolonged twice for alleged "violations of prison regulations" and easily could have been prolonged again because of a common practice by Uzbek authorities of keeping political prisoners jailed.

Qoraboev is the 14th political prisoner to be released from an Uzbek prison since President Shavkat Mirziyoev took office following the death in 2016 of President Islam Karimov.

A U.S.-based human rights advocacy group, Freedom House, said in August that Mirziyoev had made some positive reforms.