BBC demands release of journalist held in Tajikistan

Urinboy Usmonov Urinboy Usmonov has worked for the BBC as a reporter for 10 years

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The BBC has called for the immediate release of one of its reporters in Tajikistan, accused of having links with a banned Islamic organisation.

The call comes amid increasing concerns for the wellbeing of Urinboy Usmonov, a reporter for the BBC World Service Central Asian department.

Mr Usmonov, 59, was reported missing by his family on Monday.

Police say Mr Usmonov, a Tajik citizen, joined Hizb ut-Tahrir in 2009. His family has dismissed the accusation.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is an Islamic organisation which has swept across Central Asia over the past decade, attracting thousands of young recruits.

It is openly critical of the Tajik regime and is outlawed in the country.

It does not advocate violence but wants to overthrow the current leadership to establish an Islamic state across the Middle East and Central Asia - something known as a "Caliphate, or Khilafah in Arabic.

'Signs of beatings'

Mr Usmonov was brought back to his home by officials on Tuesday, while the property was searched by several members of the Tajik Security Services.

He was then taken away and has not been seen by his family or lawyer since.

Family members who were present during the search say there were signs that Mr Usmonov had been mistreated.

"He looked very down and there were signs of beatings," his wife told the BBC. She said her husband barely spoke and seemed to have difficulty walking.

The BBC has demanded his immediate release.

In a statement the BBC said that while the journalist had reported for the BBC on the judicial trials and activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Tajikistan, it had no reason to believe the allegations.

Mr Usmonov's lawyer, Fayziniso Vohidova, says her client was charged without legal representation and that his isolation from his family was also illegal.

The British embassy in Dushanbe has also expressed concern saying that the Tajik authorities should conduct their activities in accordance with their international commitments.

His family is very concerned about Mr Usmonov's health because he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.

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