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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 12:34 GMT
Uzbek interior minister resigns
Soldiers take up their positions during May's riots in Andijan, Uzbekistan
More than 150 people have been jailed over the unrest
An Uzbek government minister closely linked to the bloody crackdown in Andijan last May has resigned.

Zokirjon Almatov, interior minister, resigned for health reasons, a ministry statement said.

Mr Almatov returned to Uzbekistan earlier this week from Germany, where he had been receiving urgent medical treatment.

The announcement came as Uzbek courts jailed a further 37 people over the incident.

The defendants were found guilty of charges including attempting to overthrow the government and terrorist acts, according to a statement released by the Supreme Court.

They were sentenced to between 10 and 18 years prison.

EU ban

Mr Almatov heads a list of 12 Uzbek officials who are banned from entering the European Union because of their role in the Andijan killings.

He was allowed to enter Germany for cancer treatment on humanitarian grounds, according to German officials.

Mr Almatov has been interior minister for the past 14 years overseeing law enforcement, the police, and prisons in Uzbekistan.

He received a government award for his "contribution to maintaining peace and social stability", a ministry statement said, according to the AP agency.

In all, more than 150 people are now reported to have been jailed over the events in Andijan.

Unrest began in Andijan on 13 May when gunmen stormed a prison to free 23 local businessmen accused of Islamic extremism.

The government says 187 people, mostly "terrorist organisers", died in the ensuing violence.

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

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