Uzbekistani human rights defender Mutabar Tadzhibaeva, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2006, was unexpectedly released on Monday, 2 June.
The prisoner of conscience, who won the 2008 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders last month, was driven to her home in Margilan and reunited with her family. Tadzhibaeva passed her thanks to NGOs including Amnesty International, which had campaigned for her release.
"I spent 900 days on a "torture island"; 700 of those days I spent in solitary confinement," she revealed. "I endured only because of the support of people who were concerned about my fate. Only this gave me strength. I want to thank them for not forgetting those nearest and dearest to me - that knowledge helped me remain determined."
Mutabar Tadzhibaeva was detained on 7 October 2005, on the eve of an international conference on human rights defenders in Dublin, Ireland, which she was due to attend. She had come under increasing pressure from the authorities for her human rights activities, including for speaking out about the government's crackdown on human rights activities since the May 2005 mass killings in Andizhan.
On 6 March 2007, she was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. She faced 13 economic and political charges, including "membership of an illegal organization" and "using funds from Western governments to prepare or distribute materials containing a threat to public order and security".
According to Mutabar Tadzhibaeva's oldest brother, she did not know that she was being released, but instead thought she was being taken for medical tests to a hospital in Tashkent. Mutabar's brother told the independent uznews.net website that his sister looked pale and had lost weight, but that emotionally she was fine.
Tadzhibaeva's release was hailed by her colleagues, with human rights activists citing the release as the result of international pressure. The remaining six years of her eight-year sentence have been commuted to a three-year suspended sentence.