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Uzbek-American citizen Zokir Aliev (file photo)

A U.S. citizen who returned to visit relatives in Uzbekistan has been detained on suspicion of joining a terrorist group and fighting alongside Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan, authorities say.

Zokir Aliev was detained on June 16, about an hour after he arrived in his native city of Qarshi in the southern Qashqadaryo Region, the Paris-based Fiery Hearts Club Human Rights Association says.

The authorities gave no explanation to Aliev's relatives, but the State Security Service issued a statement on June 18 saying he was detained on terrorism-related charges.

The statement alleged that Aliev joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2000 and took part in attacks against Afghan armed forces and NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The IMU has been designated as a terrorist group and banned in countries including Uzbekistan, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Russia.

The Fiery Hearts Club said Aliev, who left Uzbekistan 25 years ago, works for a private tax-services company in the United States.

Aliev, 46, had not seen his relatives in many years and decided to make the trip following President Shavkat Mirziyoev's call to Uzbeks who left the country in the years after the 1991 Soviet collapse to return, the group said.

It said he entered Uzbekistan legally on a 90-day visa that he obtained at the Uzbek Embassy in the United States after receiving an official invitation from his relatives.

With reporting by VOA's Uzbek Service, podrobno.uz, and gazeta.uz
Mohammad Reza Salas in Tehran on March 12

Iranian authorities have executed a man convicted of killing three police officers during clashes involving members of a Sufi order, despite calls to stop his execution.

The official website of Iran’s judiciary said Mohammad Reza Salas was hanged early on June 18.

“We are shocked and saddened to announce that Mohammad Salas was executed this morning,” Amnesty International said on Twitter.

The 51-year-old was convicted and sentenced to death in March following what the London-based rights watchdog described as a “grossly unfair trial.”

“In their haste to do justice, the authorities have trampled all over this man’s rights,” Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at ‎Amnesty, said in a June 17 statement.

Luther cited Mohammad Reza Salas’s denial of access to a lawyer before and during his trial and the dismissal of "key defense witnesses who can testify that he was already in detention when the three policemen were killed.”

During the court hearings, Salas testified that he did not kill the police officers intentionally, according to local media.

Three officers were left dead after they were run over by a bus during battles between security forces and followers of one of Iran’s largest Sufi orders in Tehran in February.

Followers of the Nemattolah Gonabadi order, known as dervishes, were protesting the arrest of members of the sect, as well as rumors that their 90-year-old leader would soon be detained by police, despite assurances by the authorities that they had no such intention.

Two members of the paramilitary Basij force were also killed in the skirmishes, authorities said. Some 300 dervishes were reportedly arrested following the violence.

Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is not illegal in Iran but rights groups accuse the Iranian government of harassment and discrimination against their followers, including the Gonabadis, one of the largest Sufi sects.

Rights groups have repeatedly called on Iran, one of the world's leading executioners, to abolish the death penalty.

Amnesty International said in a report published in April that 507 people were executed in the country last year -- a 10-percent decline compared to the previous year.

With reporting by AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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