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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 14:08 GMT
Andijan suspects given jail terms
Defendants charged with terrorism sit in the supreme court of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, 20 September 2005.
The 15 defendants all pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial
An Uzbek court has found 15 men guilty of trying to overthrow the government and set up an Islamic state, in a case which drew international criticism.

The 15, who pleaded guilty at the start of the trial, were sentenced to between 14 and 20 years in jail.

The defendants were accused of leading a May uprising in the eastern town of Andijan, which Uzbek security forces ended by using massive force.

Critics have denounced the court's proceedings as a show trial.

Judge Bakhtyor Jamolov was quoted by the Russian RIA agency as saying the men - 12 from Uzbekistan and three from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan - were guilty of "terrorism, attempts to overthrow the constitutional order, aggravated murder and the seizure of hostages".

Five of the men received a 20-year sentence.

The Uzbek government says 187 people, mostly "terrorist organisers", died during the Andijan unrest.

But human rights groups say 500 or more civilians may have been killed, shot by Uzbek security forces.

'Impassive'

The defendants stood in a large metal cage in the courtroom, looking pale and drawn, but otherwise showing little emotion, says a BBC correspondent in Tashkent, Ian MacWilliam.

Prior to passing sentence, the judge read out a six-hour long summing-up, in which he repeated many of the details of the government's version of what happened in the eastern town of Andijan last May, our correspondent says.

The Uzbek government says that Islamic radicals, trained in the neighbouring republic of Kyrgyzstan, organised a jailbreak in Andijan, seized many hostages and took over the local administration.

But witnesses, human rights groups and the United Nations say that Uzbek troops then crushed what they say was an anti-government demonstration.

The court had handed down sentences very close to those sought by the prosecution, which had asked for punishment of between 15 and 20 years in jail for each defendant.

"Under the guise of social protection, the Islamic extremists staged anti-people actions that resulted in the death of peaceful civilians, government workers and law enforcement agents," Deputy Prosecutor General Anvar Nabiyev said.

During the trial, all of the witnesses joined defendants in backing the government's account of events, with the exception of one woman.

Makhbuba Zakirova told the court that she saw soldiers shooting at people waving a white flag.

"There were people in helmets everywhere. I twice saw soldiers shooting from military vehicles. The shooting was intense," she said at the time.

The UN commission on human rights has said in a statement that there have been serious inadequacies in the conduct of the trial, including inadequate definition of the crimes the 15 men were accused of, and the fact that the defendants were not cross-examined by independent lawyers.

The fact that the defendants all confessed their guilt on the first day raised concerns that the confessions might have been obtained by torture.

A former Uzbek interior ministry employee has told the BBC that beatings or psychotropic drugs are often used to force confessions from suspects - an allegation denied by the Uzbek government.

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