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BBC reporter sentenced in Tajikistan for links with banned Islamic group freed

October 15, 2011 - Dushanbe

A court in Tajikistan sentenced a BBC reporter to three years in jail for spreading banned Islamic propaganda, but was later set free under an amnesty law.

Urunboy Usmonov, 60, received the sentence at the trial in Khujand, northern Tajikistan, for being a member of the banned group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, but he was immediately granted an amnesty and was allowed to walk free, The Telegraph reports.

Usmonov complained that he had been forced to sign a confession and that guards had beaten him and stubbed cigarettes out on his arms.

According to the report, his amnesty was granted under legislation only written into Tajik law in September and many observers said it had been designed to allow Usmonov out of jail.

Usmonov's lawyer, Fayzinisso Vokhidov, had said he had been convicted of spreading Islamic propaganda through his reporting but that he would appeal against the verdict.

"The reporter was convicted for his journalist activity," the paper quoted Vokhidov, as saying.

International pressure had been growing on the Tajik authorities since they arrested Usmonov in June.

Peter Horrocks, Director BBC Global News, had condemned the verdict and said that Usmonov was innocent of all charges.

"We also intend to press for answers over the torture and mistreatment Urunboy suffered while in custody and to raise real concerns about shortcomings in the legal process," he had said.


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