Asia-Pacific

Tajikistan trial for BBC reporter Urunboy Usmonov

Urunboy Usmonov
Image caption Urunboy Usmonov was freed in July after a month in detention

A BBC journalist who was held for a month by the authorities in Tajikistan has been put on trial in Khujand city.

Urunboy Usmonov, 59, was arrested in June and accused of associating with banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

He has repeatedly denied the charges, saying his only contact with the group was to interview some members as part of his work reporting on the region.

The BBC has insisted throughout that it regards the allegations as completely unfounded.

The corporation has said that it believes meetings and interviews with people representing all shades of opinion are part of the work of any BBC journalist.

'Reaffirmed innocence'

Mr Usmonov's lawyer told the BBC the trial had been opened and adjourned until Thursday, when the court will begin to hear witnesses.

There are four other defendants accused of extremism who are being tried together with Mr Usmonov, who remains on bail.

The other four appeared in a cage in the courtroom, his lawyer said, but Mr Usmonov did not.

He said the other defendants partially admitted guilt, while Mr Usmonov reaffirmed his complete innocence.

Three journalists were allowed at the hearing, which is taking place in a detention centre rather than a regular courtroom.

Mr Usmonov has worked for the BBC Central Asian Service for 10 years.

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

Mr Usmonov's detention provoked an international outcry.

Rights groups and foreign diplomats condemned his arrest as an attempt to clamp down on independent media and coverage of sensitive political and religious issues.

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