A 76-year-old Bukharam Jew has been released from a prison in Uzbekistan after an outcry of protest from Jews around the world.
Iosif Koinov of Tashkent, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, stands accused of killing his 17-year-old tenant, who was found murdered in bed Sept. 29.
According to the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, Koinov was traveling at the time the murder occurred and no traces of the victim’s blood were found on the knife he allegedly used. After being arrested and tortured, he reportedly signed a false confession.
In response to an appeal by the Union of Councils, more than 5,000 letters from around the world were sent on Koinov’s behalf to Uzbek officials in Washington and the prosecutor in Tashkent.
Israeli officials were also said to have raised the issue with the government of Uzbekistan.
Although Koinov remains under indictment, the case has been sent by the courts back to the procurator for further investigation. The original procurator in the case has since been replaced, in a move the Union of Councils says it hopes is “an indirect acknowledgement of Koinov’s innocence.”
Micah Naftalin, national director of the Union of Councils, said he believes that “the Uzbek government is trying to do its best to resolve the case satisfactory.”
In a statement issued by the Uzbek Embassy in Moscow, the Uzbek government said the investigation is continuing.
“At the same time, because of the many petitions and regarding his high age, Koinov was freed but is not allowed to travel,” the statement said.
The government said statements that Koinov was arrested because he is Jewish “absolutely do not conform with the truth.”
“His guilt or innocence will be decided by [a] court of law independent of his nationality,” the government said.
“There were never anti-Semitic feelings,” the Uzbek government also said.