Jailed Uzbek politician Samandar Qoqonov, who has been behind bars for more than 23 years, has been released from prison, his relatives say.
Family members told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service they received a phone call early on November 24 from the prison authorities, who told them an October court ruling that prolonged Qoqonov’s jail term had been annulled.
Qoqonov, 72, a former parliament member, was expected to be released on October 6 after serving his 23-year sentence on embezzlement charges.
However, the family was told on October 30 that Qoqonov's prison term had earlier been prolonged by another three years and five days due to "violation of the penitentiary’s internal regulations."
Qoqonov, dubbed by his supporters "Uzbekistan’s longest-held political prisoner," was arrested in July 1993. His supporters say that the embezzlement case against him was politically motivated.
In 1994 he was sentenced to 20 years in jail. The time he had spent in pretrial detention was not counted as served.
In 2014, Qoqonov's prison term was prolonged to three more years and later cut by two years.
Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter that Qoqonov’s release following public calls by the U.S. State Department was proof that "pressure works."