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KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A court in the northern Tajik city of Khujand has handed down lengthy prison sentences to 17 men linked to the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The sentences range from nine to 23 years.

The men were found guilty of membership in a banned organization, a crime which according to Tajik laws carries lengthy imprisonment.

Five of the convicts had allegedly been to militant training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Prosecutors said the men had been seeking to recruit followers to extremist organizations.

The men reportedly admitted to some of the charges, but denied charges of membership in any organization.

It was immediately unclear what charges they had pleaded guilty to.

Defense lawyers said the men's confessions were obtained through torture.
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    RFE/RL's Tajik Service attracts a young, influential audience with its timely, locally focused reporting. The government's continued vigor in controlling politics and media has lent further impetus to Radio Ozodi's trusted coverage.

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