BBC reporter to avoid jail in Tajikistan: lawyer

21st September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A BBC reporter on trial in Tajikistan for allegedly failing to provide details about a banned Islamic organisation is expected to be released even if he is convicted, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

The prosecution has asked the court to hand Urunbay Usmonov, who works for the British broadcaster's Central Asia service, a five-year sentence and then release him under a new amnesty, his lawyer Faizinisso Vokhidova said.

"This is what the prosecutor asked the court at Wednesday's hearing," Vokhidova told AFP. "They think that this will supposedly prove his guilt."

The lawyer added that the defence will still try to clear Usmonov of all charges.

The 60-year-old reporter was arrested in June on suspicion of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group outlawed throughout the secular Muslim states of Central Asia.

The charges were later downgraded under pressure from the BBC and the global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Four other men are being tried alongside Usmonov on the original charges of joining Hizb ut-Tahrir and trying to overthrow the constitution by force.

The organisation officially promotes peacefully joining all Muslim countries in an Islamic state that is governed by sharia law.

But Tajik authorities, who fought Islamist militants in a civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in recent years have arrested hundreds of its members in the restive Ferghana Valley near Uzbekistan.

© 2011 AFP

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