Uzbekistan: Prosecutors Deny Holding Gulnara’s Daughter Captive
President Islam Karimov’s 16-year-old granddaughter is not being held against her will in Uzbekistan, prosecutors have announced, and she is free to leave the residence where her mother, Gulnara Karimova, is under house arrest.
Iman Karimova, an American citizen, “has no relation to the criminal cases under investigation” and there is no “restriction of her rights or legitimate interests, including freedom of movement,” the General Prosecutor’s Office said on September 22.
She is free to go anywhere at any time, including abroad, the prosecutor’s office said in a posting on its website which it described as a response to unspecified media queries. It also confirmed that Iman, who was born in the United States, has the right to her U.S. citizenship.
Iman has been in the Tashkent residence for six months with her mother, who was unofficially placed under house arrest in February and named a suspect in a multi-million-dollar mafia-style corruption case earlier this month.
Forty-two-year-old Gulnara Karimova, who was once seen as a potential successor to her aging father, has stated in letters and recordings leaked to the media that she is being held against her will.
“The territory of the house is basically surrounded now by hundreds of cameras and special equipment which is blocking any means of communication,” she said in recordings leaked to media, including EurasiaNet.org, earlier this month.
Karimova spoke of “tremendous pressure and stress” on herself and her “struggling sick daughter.” Both “need medical help urgently,” she added, for a heart condition in Iman’s case.
The prosecutor’s office said it could not comment on their health, a matter for doctors, but it did not believe they were “experiencing any problems.”
Photographs released by Karimova’s London-based spokesman, Locksley Ryan, on September 16 show what appears to be a tense standoff between the president’s daughter and her captors.
Ryan has said Karimova is “being held for purely political reasons” and linked her detention to an upcoming presidential election, scheduled for March.
Prosecutors say she is suspected of ties to an organized crime ring run by three former associates: Rustam Madumarov, Gayane Avakyan, and Nurmukhamad Sodikov. The suspects are accused of stealing assets worth some $65 million, including $17 million from the Fergana oil refinery, $5 million from Coca Cola’s Uzbekistan arm, $2.3 million from Uzbekistan Airways, and $43 million from other unnamed enterprises.
Madumarov and Avakyan were convicted after a trial in a military court in May, the prosecutor’s office has said previously, but their whereabouts is unknown.
In the latest statement, prosecutors explained they were tried in a closed military court because former military personnel were involved in the case, but offered no further details.
Future trials related to the case will be heard in non-military courts, the statement said, with a second case about to go to trial and investigations continuing into a third—the one involving Karimova.
Madumarov is reportedly Karimova’s boyfriend. Avakyan is an associate at the heart of a Swedish investigation into allegedly dubious payments made by Nordic telecoms giant TeliaSonera (which denies knowingly engaging in criminal activity) to enter Uzbekistan’s telecoms market. Avakyan is also a suspect, along with Karimova, in a money-laundering probe in Switzerland.
The prosecutor’s office said its investigations were not linked to the European corruption probes, but revealed that it had received requests for information from “a number of foreign colleagues” to which “the relevant responses” would be provided in due course.