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Uzbek Court Sentences Soviet War Hero For Terrorism

27 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- An Uzbek court today sentenced a former Soviet soldier who fought in Afghanistan to 18 years in jail for terrorism.

Kosim Ermatov, 38, was arrested in January in Karachi and extradited to Uzbekistan. Ermatov had not been heard of since the mid-1980s, when his Soviet Army unit was annihilated in Afghanistan and he was presumed dead.

The Uzbek court ruled Ermatov was a member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a terrorist group allied to Al-Qaeda that staged several armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 1999 and 2000 in an attempt to overthrow the Uzbek government.

In a related story, the U.S. State Department last week redesignated the IMU a terrorist organization.

Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov told RFE/RL today that he applauded the State Department move.

"We support the [U.S.] State Department's redesignation of the IMU as a terrorist organization," Zakirov said. "This confirms once again that we have been right in our position regarding that organization. In this case it confirms once again that America and Uzbekistan have the same position with regard to the IMU."

The IMU was believed to be nearly destroyed by U.S. forces during the campaign in Afghanistan in late 2001.

(with additional reports by AP and AFP)