Vigil for BBC reporter detained in Tajikistan

Urunboy Usmonov Urunboy Usmonov said he had interviewed members of Hizb ut-Tahrir as part of his job

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BBC journalists have held a vigil in London to demand the release of one of their colleagues, who was imprisoned in Tajikistan last week.

The authorities have charged Urunboy Usmonov with association with the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The BBC says the allegations against the 59-year-old are unfounded.

His family were allowed to see him for the first time earlier this week. They spent half an hour with him and expressed concern about his health.

Mr Usmonov's wife, Malohat Abduazimova, said she hardly recognised her husband.

"He was so down and thin. He barely walked. I noticed that he was struggling to reach out to shake his brother's hand. I can't describe it," she said.

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Apparently the grip of the security services is so strong in Tajikistan that even high-ranking officials in local government couldn't clarify the situation, let alone assist in his release”

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The family have been worried because Mr Usmonov suffers from diabetes and has a heart condition.

Journalists from Tajik news website Pressa.tj were allowed to interview Mr Usmonov earlier, but in their subsequent article they reiterated accusations linking Mr Usmonov with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The BBC has issued a statement condemning the article as a breach of legal practice and a serious violation of the presumption of innocence.

It defended the BBC reporter's right to interview people of all persuasions, and to keep his sources confidential.

Colleagues of Mr Usmonov are concerned for his wellbeing in prison

Mr Usmonov has said he did meet Hizb ut-Tahrir members as part of his work reporting on the group, which is active across Central Asia.

The lobby group Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the arrest as an attempt to censor coverage of sensitive political and religious issues.

Mr Usmonov was arrested on 13 June. His house was searched and family members say they saw signs of beatings on his face.

There have been numerous calls for the case to be clarified, including from the British and US governments and the European Union

The BBC has demanded Mr Usmonov's immediate release.

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