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Tajik Official Charged With Forcing Children To Pick Cotton

KURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- The deputy head of a district in southern Tajikistan has been arrested and charged with forcing schoolchildren to take part in the cotton harvest.

Gulandom Azimova, the deputy chief of the Shahritus district in Khatlon Province, was detained and could face four years in jail if convicted.

Mirzo Fatthulloev, from the Khatlon Prosecutor's Office, told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that it is not the only case in which schoolchildren are being used for agricultural work.

Fatthulloev said in another case three children were injured in an accident involving a tractor transporting them to the cotton fields.

RFE/RL reports that 30 students were expelled from a university in the southern city of Sarband because they did not take part in a cotton-picking campaign. But the Prosecutor's Office protested the decision and 21 students returned to school.