Uzbek ex-leader's daughter sent to prison

An Uzbek flag with a black ribbon hangs in commemoration of Uzbekistan's late President Islam Karimov as people gather to pay tribute in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Sept 3, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

TASHKENT (AFP) - The daughter of Uzbekistan's late president Islam Karimov has been sent to prison for allegedly violating the terms of her house arrest, prosecutors said on Wednesday (March 6).

Gulnara Karimova - once a high-profile diplomat and pop singer who had been tipped to succeed her father - was in 2017 sentenced to 10 years in prison on fraud and money laundering charges.

Last year, a court commuted the sentence to a five-year term under house arrest.

The Uzbek General Prosecutor's Office said early on Wednesday that Karimova had lived at her daughter Iman's Tashkent apartment, but had "repeatedly violated the conditions imposed by the court".

Despite warnings, Karimova used various "means of communication", including the Internet, left the apartment in November and refused to compensate the state for damages.

On Tuesday, a court ruled that Karimova would serve out the remainder of her term in prison, prosecutors said in a statement without providing further details.

Karimova's Swiss lawyer Gregoire Mangeat said on Twitter the 46-year-old "was forcibly removed from the apartment in which she was held in Tashkent".

He posted a picture of a woman in a short blue robe and pink slippers being dragged out of an apartment by two men.

"The Uzbek authorities continue to exert psychological and physical pressure on her to force her to withdraw her appeals and abandon all her rights and property in Switzerland," Mr Mangeat said, denouncing what he called "totally arbitrary methods".

Karimova was once a prominent figure tipped to succeed her father, serving in diplomatic posts including as ambassador to Spain and Uzbekistan's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

She also organised a fashion week, had her own jewellery line and released pop singles under the name Googoosha, as well as running entertainment television channels.

She has reportedly been under house arrest in the country since 2014 after publicly feuding with her mother and her younger sister Lola on Twitter.

In 2017, prosecutors said she was a member of an "organised criminal group" that controlled assets worth more than US$1.3 billion (S$1.76 billion) in 12 countries.

The prosecutor general's office said that in 2015, she was handed a five-year non-custodial sentence.

Karimova has also been the subject of a multi-year corruption probe targeting Western telecoms firms that US and European investigators say paid her billions of dollars to secure access to the national market.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took power after the death of Uzbekistan's long-reigning hardliner Karimov in 2016.

He has since won plaudits for trimming many of his predecessor's authoritarian excesses.

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