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Uzbek Court Jails Five For Religious Extremism

JIZZAX, Uzbekistan -- A court in Uzbekistan's eastern region of Jizzax has sentenced five men to prison terms of between 5 1/2 and 12 years on religious extremism, separatism, and sabotage charges.

One of the men sentenced on February 19, Aramais Avakian, a 33-year-old ethnic Armenian and a Christian by faith, was sentenced to seven years, his wife, Shirin Tursunova, told RFE/RL.

Avakian was the only defendant who pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in September.

Avakian's relatives say that local authorities in the Paxtakor district trumped up the charges against Avakian in order to take over his successful fish farm.

Armenian officials said earlier that they had officially expressed concern over the case and asked Uzbek authorities to properly investigate it.