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Uzbekistan Sentences More People to Prison in Secret Trials


More than 50 people in Uzbekistan have been given long prison sentences for their alleged role in a bloody uprising that was suppressed by government troops in May. The men were sentenced after secret trials in four different courts in the former Soviet republic.

The defendants received sentences ranging from 12 to 22 years, after they were convicted of various offenses during an uprising last May in the town of Andijan.

A statement issued by one court said the men were guilty of carrying out pre-meditated murders, terrorist acts, mass riots, and other serious crimes.

Closed proceedings were held in at least four courts.

Last month, 15 people were convicted in a public trial in the country's supreme court that was criticized as being reminiscent of show trials in the era of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Human rights groups have also condemned the proceedings as an attempt to cover up the truth about the crackdown in Andjijan.

Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed last May in violence they blame on Islamic radicals hoping to overthrow the government of long-time ruler Islam Karimov.

But human rights groups say the death toll was far higher and that Uzbek troops fired on unarmed civilians who were demonstrating against the government.

Alison Gill is with Human Rights Watch in Uzbekistan. She says separate trials were likely ordered because lower courts are less easy to control.

"It is in these proceedings that we actually stand to learn most about what happened in Andijan, the treatment of the defendants and the preparation of their defense," she said.

The Uzbek government has rejected calls from foreign leaders for an international inquiry into the Andijan uprising, which led to a worsening of relations with the outside world.

U.S. criticism and assistance to Andijan refugees also led Uzbekistan to order that American troops leave a military base that had served as a base for operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

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