16 May 2012, 16:51
Trial against 17 Islamists begins in Tajikistan
Dushanbe, May 16, Interfax - A court in the Sughd Province in northern Tajikistan has begun closed hearings in the extremist case against 17 suspected members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a court spokesperson said on Wednesday.
"Residents of the Asht District are being charged with membership in the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and plotting terrorist attacks in the Republic of Tajikistan," the statement said.
The Asht District is the northernmost region of Tajikistan, located 440 kilometers northeast of Dushanbe, on the border with Uzbekistan, in the Fergana Valley.
The Sughd Province is the Tajik part of the Fergana Valley shared by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Fergana Valley is considered some sort of a center of extremist movements in Central Asia.
In April 2012, a court in the Sughd Province issued a guilty verdict to 34 people charged with IMU membership. They were sentenced to various prison terms between eight and 28 years. Usually, IMU members are charged with organizing a criminal community, inciting ethnic, racial or religious hatred, attempts to depose the government and public calls to forcibly change the republic's constitutional regime.
In 2011, Tajik courts issued guilty verdicts against 168 people suspected of extremism, including the religious one. One hundred thirty-five of them are from the Sughd Province.
In 2010, 158 people were convicted; in 2009, just 37.
The IMU, which has links with Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, was formed in 1996 in the Afghan city of Kandahar. The IMU is calling for overthrowing secular governments in the Central Asian republics and transforming them into Islamic states. Currently, most IMU militants are concentrated in southern Afghanistan and fighting on the side of the Taliban.