Islamic leader sentenced in Tajikistan

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) A leader of a banned Islamic group that advocates a Muslim state in Central Asia was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday, Tajikistan's Supreme Court said.

A regional court convicted Zainiddin Abduvakhobov of publicly calling for violent change in the nation's constitutional order, the announcement said.

Prosecutors said that a search of Abduvakhobov's apartment turned up 30,000 copies of publications about the Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, which is outlawed in Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations. Records indicated he had received money from a party supporter in the United States.

The secretive Hizb-ut-Tahrir advocates removal of Central Asia's secular governments so Muslims can unite under a caliphate ruled by Islamic law. The group emerged in the Middle East and spread to the former Soviet Central Asia region in the 1990s.

The group says it does not advocate violence, but Tajik officials accuse it of ties to al-Qaida.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir members have received harsh treatment. There, too, the group claims to eschew the use of force. A Kyrgyz official said last week the group is ''creating conditions for the seizure of power.''

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