Uzbekistan begins hunt for successor as long-serving president Karimov ‘dies’

Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov has died at the age of 78 following a stroke, it is being reported. The veteran leader, who dominated the ex-Soviet nation for 25 years, had been in hospital since Saturday. A statement issued earlier on a government website said only that he was in a critical condition. But diplomats from Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan said his funeral would be held on Saturday, while other leaders have sent their condolences. The news has not been confirmed officially in the tightly controlled Central Asian state where opposition media have also been reporting that he was dead.

Dear compatriots, it is with a very heavy heart that we inform you that yesterday the condition of our president deteriorated sharply and, according to doctors, it is evaluated as critical

Government statement on Mr Karimov

On Monday, Mr Karimov’s daughter Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva announced on social media he was in stable condition in intensive care after a cerebral haemorrhage, before hinting two days later that he was making a recovery. However, an opposition news agency reported on Thursday that preparations for his funeral in his hometown of Samarkand were under way, with part of the city centre cordoned off and the streets cleaned. It is not clear who will succeed the hardline ruler who has governed his landlocked country since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Analysts say it is likely to be decided by a small group of senior officials and family members behind closed doors.

Uzbekistan’s human rights record is atrocious. Thousands are imprisoned on politically-motivated charges. Torture is endemic in the criminal justice system. Authorities continue to crackdown on civil society activists, opposition members, and journalists.

Human Rights Watch