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Tajik Soldiers Imprisoned For Hazing, But Lawyers Acknowledge Light Sentences

DUSHANBE -- A military court in Tajikistan has convicted six Interior Ministry soldiers of hazing and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two to 2 1/2 years, sentences their own lawyers said were shorter than the legal minimum.

In the May 5 ruling, the Dushanbe Garrison Court in the capital said the six servicemen severely beat fellow soldier Akbarhoja Abdurahmonov in November, shattering his jaw.

Tajikistan has devoted more attention in recent months to the persistent problem of violent hazing in the military, a legacy of the Soviet era, amid increased calls by human rights groups for action.

The trial was one of several in recent months targeting servicemen accused of such abuse. But lawyers for the defendants said that, by law, the punishment for the crime they were convicted of ranges from five to 10 years in prison.

It was not clear why the court handed down shorter sentences.

The mother of one of the convicted soldiers, Kumush Jianova, told RFE/RL that the military unit where her son served was responsible for the situation.

"Officers must keep everyday life in the military under their control. It is their fault that such cases happen in the army," Jianova said.

Two years of military service is mandatory for men aged 18-27 in Tajikistan.

In a recent change, the Central Asian nation's government now allows soldiers to telephone the military prosecutor's office to report alleged hazing.

In January, a military court in Dushanbe sentenced three soldiers of the State Committee for National Security to five years in jail each for bullying and beating nine new conscripts.

In June 2014, an army sergeant in northern Khujand Province was sentenced to nine years in prison for beating a conscript to death.

Also in June, a military court in Dushanbe sentenced a military doctor to nine years in jail for hazing, inflicting bodily harm, and leaving a serviceman in danger.

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