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Tajikistan detains BBC reporter for 'Islamist links'

Tajikstan has detained a BBC reporter for alleged participation in a militant Islamist group, the interior ministry said Wednesday, as the British embassy expressed concern over his fate.

"BBC radio correspondent Urunbay Usmonov, 50, was detained for membership in the illegal movement Hizb ut-Tahrir," interior ministry spokesman Makhmadullo Asadulloyev told journalists Wednesday.

Usmonov, a correspondent for the BBC Central Asian Service, was detained in northern Tajikistan where he lives.

He "willingly became a member of the illegal organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2009 and was engaged in extremist propaganda and campaigning for the movement on the Internet," Asadulloyev said.

He did not clarify if police found extremist materials in Usmonov's possession.

The BBC said in a statement that it "has no reason to believe these allegations" and said his family reported "that he appeared to have been beaten up" between disappearing Monday evening and coming home accompanied by Tajik security services Tuesday.

He was taken away and "denied access to his family" after a search was carried out in his home Tuesday, the BBC said, adding it "deplores the alleged treatment of Mr. Usmonov whilst detained, in particular the denial of access to a legal representative."

The British embassy on Wednesday said it was "concerned by reports that Urunbay Usmonov...was detained and maltreated by security authorities on 14 June as an alleged member of 'Hizb ut-Tahrir'."

"We have urged the Tajik authorities to clarify the situation as soon as possible," the embassy said in a statement.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was founded in the 1950s in the Middle East. It appeared in Central Asia around a decade ago and is outlawed by the secular authorities.

Tajik authorities have convicted 150 Hizb ut-Tahrir members last year, and about 40 were convicted and sentenced to prison terms since the beginning of this year.

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Author:Staff Reporter
Publication:AFP European Edition
Date:Jun 15, 2011
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