BBC reporter goes on trial in Tajikistan

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A BBC reporter went on trial Tuesday for failing to provide details about a banned Islamic organisation he was covering to the authorities of ex-Soviet Tajikistan, local media reported.

Urunbay Usmonov, a correspondent for the British broadcaster's Central Asia service, was arrested in June on suspicion of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group outlawed throughout the secular Muslim states of Central Asia.

The charges were downgraded in late June under strong 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.

Hizb ut-Tahrir 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.

Hizb ut-Tahrir appeared in Central Asia around a decade ago and its attempts to recruit new members have been harshly clamped down in both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which is the poorest of the former Soviet republics.

Founded in Jerusalem in the 1950s, the group has also been banned in Russia since 2003.

© 2011 AFP

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