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Uzbeks Sentenced For Membership In Alleged Jihadist Group

Thirteen people have been sentenced by an Uzbek regional court to between 6 and 10 years in prison for their alleged membership in an Islamic group called Jihadists, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

The only registered human rights organization in Uzbekistan, Ezgulik (Goodness), said the men were found guilty by the court in the southern province of Qashqadaryo of "encroachment on the constitutional order" and "dissemination of materials harmful to public safety and order."

Uzbek prosecutors frequently bring those specific charges against Islamic dissidents.

The trial was held behind closed doors.

The verdict was pronounced on February 3, but made public only on February 14 after relatives of the defendants appealed to Ezgulik to seek information about the accused.

Ezgulik said the verdict reads: "the accused men were poisoned by the idea of an Islamic state and launched a series of crimes against the constitutional order and public security and morality." All reportedly plead guilty to the charges.

Ezgulik said several of the sentenced men are farmers. One was an imam.

There have been several trials in various regions of Uzbekistan involving purported members of the Jihadists group. In most of the cases, the defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Those jailed on such charges include popular soccer commentator Khayrulla Hamidov, who is also the author of a series of popular radio programs on being Muslim. He was sentenced last year to six years in prison.

Uzbek human rights groups say several dozen more people are awaiting trial on similar charges. At least 21 of them are from Qashqadaryo.

Local and international rights groups estimate that more than 10,000 practicing Muslims in Uzbekistan are currently serving long prison sentences, mostly on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and install a theocracy.