QURGHON-TEPPA, Tajikistan -- A Tajik court has sentenced 36 people to prison for being followers of the banned Islamic group Jamaat ut-Tabligh, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Judge Ikromjon Abdulhafizov, in the southern Khatlon Province, said the court had proven the guilt of the 36 accused. He said 17 of them who were kept in detention since their arrest last fall received sentences of between five and 6 and 1/2 years. Nineteen others who were released on bail after their arrest will be jailed for three years.
The trial was held behind closed doors.
Faridoon Boboev, who was 17-years old when he allegedly joined the banned group, was released after he paid a fine of 2,500 somoni ($570).
Abdulhafizov noted that three other alleged followers of Jamaat ut-Tabligh received suspended sentences because they agreed to pay a 25,000 somoni ($5,700) fine.
The youngest person sentenced is 18 and the oldest is 63-years old.
Saivali Navruzov, the lawyer for 12 of the defendants, said their guilt was not proven and that he will appeal the sentences.
Janob Ashurov, who represented Nosir Rahimov, said he will not appeal Rahimov's 6 and 1/2 year prison term. Ashurov said the prosecution did not produce any witnesses and the prosecution's case was based on statements by the accused, who he said were forced to incriminate each other.
Rahimov's relative, Ibrohim Boev, said Rahimov pleaded guilty because he hoped if he did the court would only fine and release him.
Khatlon Province Prosecutor Abdurahim Rahimov said that anyone who acts outside the principles enshrined in Tajikistan's Constitution is an extremist.
But the leader of the Islamic Renaissance Party in Khatlon, Qalandar Sadriddinov, said that Jamaat ut-Tabligh has not done anything that violates the constitution and the accused were only were promoting Islamic values.
This was the second collective trial of members of Jamaat ut-Tabligh in Tajikistan. Last year 56 alleged members of the banned group were sentenced either to varying terms of imprisonment or a milder administrative punishment.
Jamaat ut-Tabligh was banned in Tajikistan in 2006.