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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Uzbek court jails 23 over attacks
Image from Russian TV channel NTV shows the blast site at the marketplace in Tashkent, 29 March 2004
The attacks in Tashkent were the country's first suicide bombings
A court in Uzbekistan has sentenced 23 people to from three to 18 years in jail for their role in a series of suicide bombings and shootings.

At least 47 people, mostly police and militants, died in the attacks in Bukhara and the capital, Tashkent, earlier this year.

More than 50 people have already been jailed in connection with the attacks.

A human rights group protested the verdict, saying it had "serious concerns" over the trial's conduct.

A court spokesman said the accused had been sentenced for "attempts to overthrow the country's constitutional order, taking part in extremist religious organisations and fomenting religious and ethnic hatred", the Reuters news agency reported.

All of the defendants in the closed trial had pleaded not guilty.

Terror links

The government has blamed the series of attacks in March and April on members of a radical Islamic group, which the authorities said had links to al-Qaeda.

In a letter to President Islam Karimov, the International League for Human Rights said their investigations had shown that trials related to the attacks were "accompanied by harassment and torture of defendants while in custody".

The US-based group called on the Uzbek government to carry out "prompt, impartial and full investigations" into the allegations.

Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan was suspended last week after criticising the British intelligence services for using intelligence allegedly obtained under torture by the Uzbek government.

His claim was strongly denied by the Foreign Office.

A UN report in 2002 said the use of torture in Uzbek prisons was "endemic".

The BBC's Monica Whitlock
"This trial is just the beginning "

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