World Bulletin / News Desk
Ex-Soviet Uzbekistan is preparing for snap presidential elections to replace late leader Islam Karimov, but a deep schism in the strongman's immediate family threatens to cast a shadow over an otherwise predictable vote.
In an interview with the BBC, Karimov's London-based grandson Islam Karimov jr., 23, called on authorities in the Central Asian state to prove that his disgraced and reportedly detained mother, Gulnara Karimova, is alive and well.
"Right now there is a rumour that she's dead. But is she? Is she not? I just don't understand how in the 21st century they cannot answer a simple question," he told the BBC.
"Where is Gulnara?" he asked in the interview that followed rumours published in Central Asia-focused and Russian media that the 44-year-old had been poisoned to death and buried by government agents.
Karimov jr. said that he believes his mother, Karimov's eldest daughter, who was once rumoured to control swathes of the Uzbek economy, is still alive.
"OK.[Under] house arrest. But for what? How long? Under whose supervision?" he asked.
Karimova once wielded significant power in Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous country with some 32 million people, before a feud with her mother Tatiana and younger sister Lola went public in 2013.
Reports of her being placed under house arrest in the capital Tashkent first surfaced in 2014, well before a reported stroke called time on Karimov's own brutal 27-year reign earlier this year.
Karimov was buried in the fabled Uzbek city of Samarkand September 3, but neither Gulnara Karimova, nor Islam Karimov jr. and his youngest sister Iman attended the funeral.
"I knew that if I go to the funeral, I could not come back," Islam Karimov jr., a student at Oxford Brookes University in London told the BBC.
"They need all three of us there to limit our activity and our voices," he said, making reference to the feared SNB security service believed to have sided with his grandmother and aunt in the family quarrel.
With her situation at home unclear, Karimova is also 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.
On Sunday Uzbekistan will elect a successor to replace Karimov in a vote unlikely to present a real alternative to interim leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev, 59, who served as Karimov's prime minister for 13 years.
afpLast Mod: 02 Aralık 2016, 20:24