Uzbek opposition politician's prison term extended to total 25 years

October 31, 2016 12:36 PM EDT

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ALMATY (Reuters) - A court in Uzbekistan has handed down an additional three-year sentence to a man described by human rights activists as one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the Central Asian nation, his relatives and a local rights group said on Monday.

Samandar Kukanov, 72, a former parliamentary deputy and opposition politician, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1994 on embezzlement charges, and in 2014 his term was prolonged for two more years for a breach of prison rules, according to rights group Ezgulik.

Relatives were expecting his release this month, but instead they have received a letter from prison authorities saying Kukanov had again been found guilty of violating prison regulations, according to the letter, which Kukanov's relatives posted online.

The letter did not say which jail regulations Kukanov had violated.

Rights groups and opposition members say Kukanov, once a chief executive of an oil refinery, became "a personal enemy" of Uzbekistan's late president Islam Karimov after criticizing him and supporting opposition movements.

Karimov died in September from a stroke after ruling the Central Asian nation of 32 million people with an iron fist for almost 27 years.

Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has become interim president and is widely expected to win the Dec. 4 presidential election, has amnestied several less prominent political prisoners. But country-watchers expect no significant changes in Uzbekistan's restrictive political environment.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gareth Jones)



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