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Uzbek Court Jails Tajik Citizen For Espionage

Saidqul Ashurov

Saidqul Ashurov

A military court in Uzbekistan has sentenced a Tajik citizen to 12 years in prison on espionage charges, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Obloqul Rizoev told RFE/RL by phone from the northern town of Panjakent that his brother, Saidqul Ashurov, had been sentence in a closed trial.

Rizoev said Ashurov was detained in March and accused of violating Uzbek laws relating to state secrets. Rizoev said his brother is a gold-ming professional with experience working in South Africa but is not a spy.

Ashurov was employed by the British company Oxus Gold, which has a joint venture called Amantaytau Goldfields in which Oxus Gold and the Uzbek side each hold a 50-percent stake.

Until his arrest, Ashurov was employed as Amantaytau Goldfields' chief metallurgist at its mining operations in Zarafshan, Uzbekistan.

Oxus Gold's lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, said the conviction of Ashurov is a clear violation of human rights by the Uzbek authorities, and there is no legal basis for his arrest.

Suhrob Ismoilov, a human rights activist and legal adviser to Oxus Gold, said Uzbek authorities have assessed as "classified" certain information found on a flash disk and Ashurov's personal computer. But he said the information is publicly available on Oxus Gold's website and is not classified.

Ismoilov said the only classified information found in Ashurov's possession was a 2009 document about transporting gold. Ismoilov said the information is no longer of any relevance.

He suggested two motives for jailing Ashurov: an ongoing dispute between Oxus Gold and the Uzbek authorities for control of the company or the so-called "spy war" between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The two countries have in recent years detained several of each other's citizens and charged them with espionage.