October 2, 2017 / 5:22 PM / a year ago

Uzbek dissident denies anti-government propaganda charges

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbek dissident writer Nurulloh Muhammad Raufkhon said on Monday that anti-government propaganda charges against him were a mistake and he hoped to be cleared by an impartial probe.

Uzbek dissident writer Nurulloh Muhammad Raufkhon, who was released by police on Sunday from exile on charges of spreading anti-government propaganda, is seen in the courtyard of his house in Tashkent, Uzbekistan October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov

Raufkhon, 62, forced into exile after publishing a book critical of strongman leader Islam Karimov, last week became the first prominent dissident to return to the Central Asian nation since Karimov’s death in September 2016.

Police detained Raufkhon on arrival on Sept. 27 from Turkey and said he had been charged with calling for an unconstitutional change of the state order and spreading materials threatening public security.

He was led away from the airport in handcuffs and underwent questioning the same day.

The authorities released him from jail on Sunday, but said the charges were still being investigated.

“The charges I face, spreading anti-government propaganda, I think it is a mistake,” Raufkhon said in an interview with Reuters at his home.

“The idea raised in my book is about abiding by the constitution and I urged (the authorities) not to act against the constitution. I talked about mistakes in policies and tried to say what was wrong.”

Raufkhon said an impartial review of his book would show “there is nothing against the state” in it.

“I’m hoping for the best,” he said.

Raufkhon decided to return to the former Soviet republic after Karimov’s successor, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered some 16,000 people, including the writer, struck off a security blacklist of potential extremists and dissidents in August.

Mirziyoyev has also taken steps to liberalize other policies, moving to ease restrictions on travel and foreign exchange, as he seeks to improve ties with the West and attract foreign investment.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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