Asia-Pacific

BBC's Urunboy Usmonov 'frail' in Tajik jail

Urunboy Usmonov
Image caption Urunboy Usmonov suffers from diabetes and a heart condition

A BBC reporter being held in Tajikistan is both physically and psychologically frail, according to a colleague who was allowed to visit him in prison.

Hamid Ismailov, from the BBC Central Asian service, said he was "horrified" to see Urunboy Usmonov in a detention centre in the northern city of Khujand.

Authorities have charged Mr Usmonov, 59, with association with the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The BBC says the allegations against him are unfounded.

Mr Usmonov, who suffers from a heart condition and diabetes, was arrested two weeks ago. His family was allowed a brief visit with him last week and expressed concern about his health.

Mr Ismailov said it took him two days to arrange the 10-minute visit with Mr Usmonov.

"I was horrified to see him," he said.

"I was expecting to see a physically frail man but he was frail mentally and psychologically as well and that was very difficult to see. He was talking to me but his eyes were fixed on the security officers."

Mr Ismailov said he tried to reassure Mr Usmonov that he had the support of the BBC and other international organisations.

Mr Ismailov also said that he had made representations to the security services that Mr Usmonov should be treated in line with his accredited status as a journalist for a foreign news organisation.

Last week BBC journalists held a vigil in London to demand Mr Usmonov's release.

Mr Usmonov, who has worked for the BBC Central Asian Service for 10 years, was arrested on 13 June. Family members said it appeared he had been beaten.

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

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

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