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Daughter of former Uzbek president 'who was locked up in psychiatric hospital has been fatally poisoned'

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Astonishing claims have emerged from authoritarian Uzbekistan today that the glamorous daughter of former dictator Islam Karimov has died from 'poisoning'.

The sensational reports about ex-billionaire Gulnara Karimova - who has been locked away out of sight since her father purged her in 2013 - cannot be immediately verified.

The 44-year-old was reported several months ago to have been shut away in a psychiatric hospital, while other accounts say she was held under house arrest, and one report suggested she was living in exile in Israel.

She was prevented from attending her autocrat father's funeral in Samarkand in September and her friends have been increasingly concerned about her fate.

The extraordinary claim comes amid a presidential campaign and the rumours could be seen as a dirty trick to embarrass the authorities.

A Central Asian news website claimed an anonymous source in Uzbek National Security Service SNB had told them Gulnara died in the capital, Tashkent, on 5 November.

'According to the source, he personally took part in the funeral, and decided to have a phone chat with us because of a fear for her children's destiny,' stated the report.

It adds: 'He claims her son Islam and daughter Iman are left in Tashkent in a helpless position.'

Islam, 24, was previously believed to be living in exile in London.

There has been no comment from the Uzbek authorities on the claims which suggest that she was buried in a graveyard in Tashkent 'on the night of her poisoning', and the grave was later 'bulldozed'.

A source at the offices of acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev - who is the favourite to succeed Karimov as president in elections on 4 December - reportedly declined to answer questions of the ex-leader's daughter.

'The person who spoke to us said that it is absolutely unlikely that there will ever be a statement about Gulnara from state officials,' reported the opposition news website.

Galima Bukharbayeva, the website editor, who lives in exile - said: 'I personally spoke to the source. We got the information about a week ago and all this time we tried to cross check and verify it. I would love it not to be true because of how horrendous this is.'

She said: 'Our source said that her son Islam was fooled into believing that her mother felt really bad and came back to Tashkent (from London).

'So apparently he is there now together with his sister, and one can only guess what can happen to them.'

'Our source said that worry over her helpless children was his primary reason to call us. I don't know if the source tried to get in touch with other media.'

Social sites have called on the highly secretive Uzbek authorities to prove that Gulnara is alive under the hashtag Show Gulnara.

The report into Gulnara's death appears at odds with information from a human rights activist now based in the EU who said contacts had sighted Gulnara 'dressed in black' and walking alone in Tashkent.

'From what our source tells us, Gulnara is alive and I am most surprised about Centre One spreading rumours,' said the activist.

Harvard-educated Gulnara - a judo black belt who at the height of her nepotistic power was the wealthiest woman oligarch in the former Soviet Union as well as a pop star, catwalk model, socialite, fashion designer, foreign diplomat, heir apparent, and, in her own words, an 'exotic Uzbekistan beauty'.

Some claim she was sidelined as the clans surrounding her father competed for power while his health waned.

Once the most powerful woman in central Asia, and with friends among the British royal family and across the West, Gulnara had previously seen herself as an heir or kingmaker, yet she was also mired in corruption scandals.

The US is seeking to return to Uzbekistan more than $600million (£481million) from a bribery scheme she allegedly ran in her heyday, amid American concerns over into whose pockets the cash will go in Tashkent.

Switzerland, too, has an ongoing money laundering probe over a £615 million trust fund of which she is believed to be the beneficial owner, according to reports.

Recent weeks have seen Twitter accounts suddenly become active purporting to be from Gulnara.

One recent message 'I want my children back. This is all I dream of ' - gave some hope that she was being heard again.

Last week messages supposedly from her called for Sir Alex Ferguson to be put in charge of the Uzbek national football team.

'I know he's a pensioner, but where there is a will there is a way,' she supposedly wrote.

'I had Sir Alex's contacts. I will talk to him and we'll sign him up.'

Earlier, she asked for forgiveness for her gargantuan corruption, if the Twitter is to be believed.

'Who didn't abuse their work position. Yes I did. I confess,' her Twitter asked.

'I .... ask everyone to forgive me.....

'Looking back through the moments of past I realise what a divided family we were. Power broke our friendship. Money, glory, revenge - why?'

'I beg Shavkat Mirziyoyev to forgive me. I crossed the line because of not enough knowledge and too many emotions, very woman-like. I am sorry. He is a truly decent successor of my Father. I believe that he will bring glory to the country.'

In other postings the author turned on the acting president who is busy replacing Karimov's apparatchiks with his own henchmen as he consolidates his power ahead of the poll.

One read: 'Well, I'd like to punch him in the face. This is somebody that we want for president? I don't think so.'

Followed swiftly by: 'I mean he's so blatantly stupid. He's a punk. He's a dog. He's a pig. He doesn't know what he's talking about.'

A thorough investigation by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service has exposed the Tweets as fake, and says 'critics of the government suspect Uzbek security services may be involved' - possibly to disgrace Gulnara further, and entrap those who may help her.

Centre1.com said it had asked detailed questions on Gulnara's supposed death to the presidential administration in Tashkent but received no replies.

'There was no answer from the administration,' she said.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray once described Gulnara as a beautiful but deadly James Bond villainess.

He said: 'Gulnara Karimova is one hell of a package. Richer than Paris Hilton, undeniably smarter and arguably sexier - and I've met both.

'Harvard MBA, owner of scores of businesses, martial arts black belt, fluent in four languages, professional jewellery designer, poet and performer of a number one hit pop single.'

'Her muscle-bound boyfriend walks respectfully behind her, head bowed. If you look very closely, you can make out that she is not 21 but 35.'

Despite her illustrious titles, she was deeply unpopular among ordinary Uzbek people.

Karimova was banned from her own father's funeral and now, the colossal fortune and assets her father amassed in power is expected to be redistributed to other ruling elites



A diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed they saw her as 'a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way'.

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Muslim Global: Daughter of former Uzbek president 'who was locked up in psychiatric hospital has been fatally poisoned'
Daughter of former Uzbek president 'who was locked up in psychiatric hospital has been fatally poisoned'
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