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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 11:27 GMT
Uzbekistan jails opposition chief
By Ian MacWilliam
BBC Central Asia correspondent

Sanjar Umarov - file photo
Sanjar Umarov was arrested after calling for reforms
A court in Uzbekistan has sentenced another opposition leader to more than 10 years in prison.

Sanjar Umarov, head of the Sunshine Uzbekistan Opposition Alliance, was convicted of alleged economic crimes.

He was arrested shortly after calling on members of parliament to discuss economic reform.

Critics say Mr Umarov is the latest victim of the Uzbek government's determination to quash all criticism and political dissent.

A court in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, sentenced Sanjar Umarov to a total of 14 years in prison, but said the sentence should be reduced to just over 10 years under an amnesty agreement.

Umarov was also ordered to pay more than $8m in fines.

He was found guilty of heading a criminal group laundering money through offshore companies, tax avoidance and hiding foreign currency.

He declared that he was innocent of all the charges.

US link

A spokeswoman for Sunshine Uzbekistan said that Mr Umarov has had no business interests in Uzbekistan since 1996 and that the charges against him were fabricated.

She said the group intend to contest the case in the United States, as the charges relate to an Uzbek American company with which Mr Umarov was formerly involved.

The charges were similar to those brought against another leader of the opposition group, Nadira Khidoyatova, who was also sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.

Sunshine Uzbekistan came to prominence last year after Uzbek troops crushed a large anti-government protest in the eastern town of Andijan by firing into the crowds.

Eyewitnesses say hundreds of people were killed, but the government insists the protest was an attempt to start an Islamic uprising.

It has refused repeated international calls for an independent investigation.



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