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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbeks Convict 4 Moslems for Terror




Four people have been convicted in Uzbekistan of terrorism, attempting to undermine the country's constitution and spreading the ideas of Wahhabism, a fundamentalist Islamic sect, Interfax reported Tuesday.


All were sentenced to five to seven years in prison in the town of Namangan, 208 kilometers east of the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, in a region with a large concentration of Wahhabis, Interfax said.


It did not give details of the charges against them.


Uzbek President Islam Karimov has previously blamed Wahhabis for a wave of violence in the former Soviet republic in Central Asia, including killing officials and destroying food-processing plants, water reservoirs, power stations and other strategic sites.


Interfax quoted the chairman of the Uzbek Independent Human Rights Organization as saying punishment for such crimes is usually more severe. But Mikhail Ardzinov said the courts took into account "extenuating circumstances and the fact that the defendants confessed voluntarily.''


He did not elaborate.


Last week, Karimov and Russian President Boris Yeltsin decided to sign a treaty along with Tajikistan, another former Soviet republic in Central Asia, to counter aggressive Islamic fundamentalism.


"This is a very serious threat,'' Karimov was quoted as saying Tuesday. He called the Wahhabis' activities "an attempt to turn religion into politics, seize power and declare Uzbekistan an Islamic country.''


Earlier this month, Uzbekistan's parliament passed a law requiring religious associations to register with the state. Karimov said the previous religious law was inadequate to stem the growth of the Wahhabis, which originated in Saudi Arabia.


Several senior police officers were killed in Namangan last fall. Authorities blamed the killings on Wahhabis.


Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan's security forces said Tuesday that they had arrested four foreigners suspected of links with the Wahhabis.


The four were arrested April 8 in connection with the illegal dispatch of Kyrgyz youths abroad to an Islamic state, the former Soviet republic's Security Ministry said in a statement published in the Utro Bishkeka newspaper.


Officials were not immediately available for comment on the statement.


"Investigative work gives ground to suggest that we have discovered an underground organization undertaking illegal extremist activities, which sent its supporters to prepare for this abroad in an Islamic state and had permanent members as well as founding documents," it said.


The ministry statement said police had carried out checks on dozens of Moslem teachers who instruct young people in various religious confessions.


The Security Ministry stressed it supported the constitutional right to freedom of religion and said it was undertaking the measures to stop any appearance of religious extremism which could threaten stability and peace in Kyrgyzstan.