BBC reporter family pleads with Tajik president

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The family of a BBC reporter charged with extremism in Tajikistan called on the country's president on Monday to help secure his release.

Urunbay Usmonov, a correspondent for the BBC's Central Asia service, was arrested last week on suspicion of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an outlawed group in the secular Muslim states of ex-Soviet Central Asia.

"We hope for your help in securing the release of our father," said the letter to President Emomali Rahmon, which was signed by his six grown children.

"We still don't know why he was detained, still don't understand why our house was searched."

The family also said the 60-year-old journalist appeared to have been beaten by the Tajik security services.

Global rights groups have condemned the arrest, saying that Usmonov was arrested for his journalistic activities.

Usmonov has not been allowed to meet his attorney since his detention, said the head of the association of the independent media Nuriddin Karshibayev.

Authorities accuse Usmonov of maintaining contact with Hizb ut-Tahrir and distributing its materials with the aim of bringing about a "violent seizure of power and change in the constitutional make-up of Tajikistan".

Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in the 1950s in the Middle East and advocates the establishment of an Islamic "caliphate" across Muslim Central Asia, although its members insist they believe this should be achieved by peaceful means.

It appeared in Central Asia around a decade ago and its attempts to recruit new members and its distribution of anti-government literature has worried the authorities, particularly in Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet republics.

The Tajik authorities fought Islamist militants in a civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in mid-2010 the country saw a new spate of militant attacks in the restive Rasht Valley.

© 2011 AFP

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