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Uzbek imam wakes from two-year coma in Sweden

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The imam's son David Nazarov at a protest last year. Photo: Ola Westerberg/TT
17:55 CEST+02:00
The imam who was shot in the head in Sweden in 2012 has finally emerged from his two-year coma. His family has criticized Swedish police for sluggish investigation and lack of thorough protection.

Obid Sobitkhony Nazarov, an imam highly critical of the Uzbek regime, was shot in the head on February 22nd, 2012, in Strömsund, northwestern Sweden.

He miraculously survived the attack, but plunged into a coma - which would last more than two years. He finally regained consciousness on Tuesday.

"My father's condition is improving every day, but it's very slow and he will always be dependent on the care of others," the imam's son David Nazarov told news agency TT on Tuesday.

Obid Nazarov was granted political asylum in Sweden in 2006, after fleeing the Uzbek government's crackdown in Andijan. 

After resettling in Sweden, the 56-year-old began serving as imam in the small Swedish town, with a population of just over 4,000. 

"We would never have thought this could happen in Sweden, in Europe," an Uzbek man from Nazarov's congregation told news agency TT after the shooting. He added that he was certain the Uzbek regime was behind the attack.

David Nazarov agreed, and still does. He said that his father is still under threat, and that the family lives in hiding, having cut off contact with friends and relatives for their own safety.

"We are constantly receiving information that the people who ordered the attack are not satisfied," David Nazarov said. "Sweden is no longer a sanctuary for us. It's just like when we lived in Uzbekistan." 

Nazarov said that police have not attempted to protect the family, and that the investigation into the attempted murder has remained at a stand-still.

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Sirpa Franzén, director of press at the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), said on Tuesday that the agency had not seen any recent "concrete threats" against the imam. 

An Uzbek couple was tried in 2012 for assisting with the shooting, but was released due to lack of evidence against them. Police believe they have identified the shooter, who reportedly fled to Russia after the attack.

Sources to news agency TT claim that the same man was responsible for the death of another man critical of the Uzbek regime prior to the attack in Strömsund - that time in Moscow. 

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