Lawyer: Tajikistan tortured BBC reporter to admit terror
Authorities in the Central Asian state Tajikistan tortured a BBC reporter in an attempt to force him to falsely confess that he was a member of a terrorist group, the journalist's lawyer told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.
BBC journalist Urunboy Usmonov is on trial on charges of being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamicist group banned in Tajikistan for its possible links with terror groups, and for failing to report the authorities terrorist acts planned by Tajikistan extremists.
"My client was tortured from the moment of his detention ... and appeared in court with visible injuries the court simply ignored," said lawyer Faizinisko Vokhidova.
Interrogators burned Usmonov on the hands with cigarettes and their beatings opened cuts on his head, Voikhidova alleged, DPA reported.
She named judge Shodikhon Nazarov as complicit in the torture because he allegedly "made no reaction" when Usmonov appeared at an initial court hearing with visible signs of torture on his body.
Usmonov and four other defendants face substantial fines, jail terms of up to five years, or both, if convicted of the charges against them.
Their trial is being held in Khujand, the largest city in Tajikistan's northern Sughd province, where Usmonov and the other defendants have residences.
Usmonov was arrested on June 13 and held two days by Tajikistan authorities. Earlier charges that he had planned terrorist acts and actively worked to support Hizb ut-Tahir were dropped in July.
BBC and British government officials have said Usmonov met with Hizb ut-Tahrir members to interview them as part of his duties as an independent journalist.