The BBC has promised to appeal after one of its reporters in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan was found guilty of complicity in the activities of banned Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Urunboy Usmonov was first detained by security services in June when he was allegedly denied access to his family, colleagues or a lawyer.
He was released on bail in July following protests by the BBC and the British and American Embassies
Last week he was sentenced to three years in jail for his alleged involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir – a claim he denies – but the judge granted him an amnesty and ordered his release.
He was originally accused of being a member of the outlawed group but this was later altered to a charge of ‘complicity’in the group’s extremist activities.
According to a report on the BBC 60-year-old Usmonov said he had ‘simply been meeting with Hizb ut-Tahrir members while working on reports about the group”, and he plans to appeal the decision.
He was quoted as saying:
During the court hearings they could not provide any evidence against me,” he said. “I am innocent.”
A witness during the court case said that he saw signs of torture on my face. The court ignored these testimonies.
I did my job. I am journalist and that is it. I am definitely going to appeal to a higher court.
Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s director of Global News, said:
We hope that the appeal process will lead to his reputation as a highly respected writer and journalist being restored,” he said.
We also intend to press for answers over the torture and mistreatment Urunboy suffered while in custody, and to raise real concerns about shortcomings in the legal process.