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Courts in Tajikistan Free Two Journalists

BBC correspondent Urunboy Usmonov
BBC correspondent Urunboy Usmonov
KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A BBC reporter in the northern Tajik province of Sughd has been sentenced to three years imprisonment -- but set free under an amnesty law, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

On October 14, Urunboy Usmonov was found guilty of failing to inform the authorities about his contacts with the banned Islamic organization, Hizb ut-Tahrir. The journalist denies the charges and is expected to appeal the verdict.

Usmonov said he was tortured during his monthlong pretrial detention this summer.

The 59-year-old journalist and his employer maintain that any contact Usmonov had with Hizb ut-Tahrir was entirely for journalistic purposes.

Four other men were tried along with Usmonov in the same court in the northern Tajik town of Khujand. The men were found guilty of Hizb ut-Tahrir membership and were given prison sentences ranging between 20 and 22 years.

Earlier, in a separate court in Khujand, another Tajik reporter, Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov, was barred from journalistic work for three years and ordered to pay a 35,800-somoni (approximately $7,100) fine for causing moral damages with his articles that criticized local authorities.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders welcomed the journalists' release, saying the authorities were "using the judiciary to try and silence" them.

"They never committed any offense. They never committed any crime, and they should not have been condemned," Bihr said.

"Quite the opposite, they should have been compensated for the harm they received, Ismoilov for being jailed almost one year and Usmonov for being jailed one month an being tortured. So this is really unacceptable."