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Prominent Uzbek Sports Journalist's Trial Opens

Uzbek journalist Khairulla Khamidov
Uzbek journalist Khairulla Khamidov
TASHKENT -- The trial began today of prominent Uzbek sports journalist Khairulla Khamidov and 14 others charged with activities associated with a banned Islamic group, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The trial is taking place in Gulbakhor, a town near Tashkent. The defendants are charged with "organizing or actively participating in a banned social or religious group" and "production and distribution of literature threatening social order and security."

Khamidov, 34, is well known in Uzbekistan for his popular Islamic radio program, his work as a soccer commentator, and his poetry. His arrest in January sparked an unusually strong wave of protest in Uzbekistan.

He and the other defendants could be given five-year jail sentences if found guilty.

The trial is being held behind closed doors and all roads from Tashkent to Gulbakhor are being controlled by police, RFE/RL reports.