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Uzbek court jails eight accused of extremism

Written by: Staff
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TASHKENT, Mar 15 (Reuters) A court in Uzbekistan sentenced eight men to up to six years in jail for links to an extremist Islamist movement, rights activists said today, describing the case as fabricated.

Uzbek rights activists said the men had denied being part of any extremist movement during the trial which ended on Monday.

The authoritarian Central Asian state has been criticised in the West for jailing thousands of religious and political prisoners and the widespread use of torture in prison.

''Psychological pressure was applied on them. This case is clearly fabricated,'' Surat Ikramov, one of the activists, told Reuters.

The court could not be reached for comment.

Uzbekistan has cracked down on dissent since troops put down an uprising in the town of Andizhan last May where witnesses saw soldiers opening fire on civilians.

Last year's unrest, sparked by the trial of Muslim businessmen, was blamed by President Islam Karimov on Islamist extremists who he says are trying to overthrow his secularist government and create an Islamic state.

Separately, Andrea Berg, a researcher with U.S.-based Human Rights Watch in Uzbekistan, said eight more people had gone on trial in the capital Tashkent on charges of Islamist extremism.

''They deny they are guilty. They all said they were tortured, and five of them said they were severely beaten,'' she told Reuters after attending a hearing on Wednesday.

She said some of them had been threatened with rape.

The latest cases are not officially linked to last year's unrest. Since the Andizhan events, Uzbekistan has jailed more than 180 people accused of involvement and put pressure on foreign-funded charities and the few independent media.

REUTERS SHR RN2124

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