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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Tajik opposition leader jailed
By Ian Macwilliam
BBC News, Tashkent

The leader of an opposition party in Tajikistan has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for charges relating to terrorism and embezzlement.

Mahmadruzi Iskandarov was kidnapped in Moscow and secretly brought to Tajikistan when an extradition request failed.

Critics say the case against him is politically motivated.

Mahmadruzi Iskandarov was a field commander in Tajikistan's civil war of the early 1990s.

He was found guilty of illegal possession of arms, embezzlement of government money, and for organising what the supreme court judge called "terrorist acts."

The terrorism charges relate to an attack on a militia post in Mr Iskandarov's native region of Tajikabad last year which the authorities say he helped to organise.

On Tuesday, another former civil war field commander, Eribek Ibragimov, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for taking part in the same attack. Mr Ibragimov had supported the Islamic opposition in the war.

In exile

After the civil war, Mr Iskandarov became leader of the opposition Democratic Party. He entered the government following a peace deal in 1998 and was appointed head of the state gas company.

But he left that post following accusations of embezzlement and went to Russia two years ago.

There he was arrested, but the Russian courts turned down an extradition request from Tajikistan.

Some time later, he was kidnapped in a Moscow suburb and subsequently turned up in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, prompting an outcry from human rights groups.

Critics of the Tajik government say the case is politically motivated.

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