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Uzbeks at prayer in Tashkent (file photo) (Bymedia.net)
PRAGUE, August 4, 2006 (RFE/RL) – An Uzbek human rights group says a court has sentenced 14 men to jail terms of between seven and 12 years on charges of religious extremism.
The Initiative Group of Independent Rights Defenders told RFE/RL the verdict was reached on August 3.
The court in Toytepa, near Tashkent, found the defendants guilty of belonging to the banned religious group Hizb ut-Tahrir and of spreading extremist literature.
Rights campaigners both in Uzbekistan and abroad have criticized President Islam Karimov for cracking down on all forms of political and religious dissent through unfair trials.
In related news, the trial of dissident singer Dadakhon Hasan resumed today in Tashkent.
The 66-year-old Hasan is charged with insulting Karimov and threatening public security. Rights activists say, though, that the real reason behind his trial is that he wrote a song about a government crackdown in Andijon in May 2005, in which official figures say 187 people died. Rights groups say many hundreds more were killed.