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Four Men Jailed For Using Mosques To Spark Kyrgyz Unrest

A burned school in the village of Shark near Osh
A burned school in the village of Shark near Osh
KARA-SUU, Kyrgyzstan -- A court in southern Kyrgyzstan has sentenced four men to four years in jail for using local mosques to set off deadly unrest in June, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The Kara-Suu district court in southern Osh Oblast convicted the four residents of the villages of Shark and Nariman today of "organizing mass disorder" in the region on June 10.

Court Chairman Koichubek Jobonov told RFE/RL that the four, all ethnic Uzbeks, were found guilty of using the minarets of local mosques to "call for mass disorder."

The court found that the four men intoned the Azan -- the traditional Islamic call for prayer in Arabic -- at a time when prayers were not due. Local Uzbeks construed the unscheduled Azan as an alarm and started gathering en masse at local mosques, which prompted an escalation of interethnic tension, Jobonov said.

Investigators found that deadly ethnic clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz on June 10 started with those sudden appeals for people to come to the mosques. According to witnesses, the calls were made around midnight, which is a very unusual time for the call to prayer.

According to investigators, the calls from minarets were the signal to Uzbeks to attack local Kyrgyz.

At least 393 people died and hundreds were injured during the ensuing violence in Osh and neighboring Jalal-Abad Oblast.