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Tajik Officials 'Admit Irregularities' During Arrest Of BBC Journalist

Urunboy Usmonov
Urunboy Usmonov
KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Lawyers for a BBC journalist on trial in Tajikistan on charges of associating with a banned Islamic group say officials have acknowledged there were procedural violations during his arrest and detention, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Urunboy Usmonov, 59, was arrested in June and went on trial last week over his alleged links to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Usmonov and his employer have denied any wrongdoing, saying any meetings he had with the group members were for purely journalistic purposes.

Usmonov's lawyers quoted Khurshed Ghiyosov, head of the State Committee for National Security investigations department in Sughd Province, as saying on August 26 that Usmonov should have been provided with a lawyer immediately after his arrest, and a search of his home was not legal.

Usmonov's wife, Malohat Abduazimova, who was invited to attend the court hearing, said that when security officers brought Usmonov with them on June 14 to search the family home there were visible signs of a beating on his head and face.

But representatives of the investigation team categorically deny beating Usmonov. They said that when Usmonov was freed from detention on July 14, he gave them a written statement that he was not beaten at the time of his arrest.

Usmonov's lawyer Fayzinso Vohidova said he wrote that statement word by word under pressure from the prosecutors' office simply to secure his release from detention. Vohidova claimed that investigators did not allow Usmonov to meet with his lawyers for nine days after his arrest, until the marks from the beating had disappeared.

Vohidova said the group of security agents who arrested Usmonov and searched his home acted illegally, because under Tajik law this is the task of investigators. For that reason, Vohidova said, the materials the security agents took from Usmonov's home could not be used as evidence during his trial.

Usmonov and four other defendants face substantial fines or jail terms of up to five years, or both, if convicted.