BISHKEK. A Kyrgyz court opened a trial today against a man charged with membership in the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, a group that has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
Judge Pamirdin Jumagulov of Batken district court in southern Kyrgyzstan says Sherali Akbotoyev stands charged with terrorism, hostage-taking and membership of a banned armed group.
The defendant has confessed to some of the charges against him. According to Akbotoyev, at first stage he was one of the mediators between the Islamic militants and the local authorities. As he put it, he was sent by the national security service' officials to the Islamic militants to help to free some local hostages, then he was forced to join them. It was during August 1999 incursion of the IMU militants into the mountainous Batken region. He was detained last spring by the Kyrgyz security officers abroad. Some undisclosed sources say that the Afghan and Iranian sides had cooperated with the Kyrgyz security service in the detainment action.
Court hearing against Akbotoyev will continue tomorrow.
The United States designated the IMU as a terrorist organization in 2000 after the kidnapping of four American mountain climbers in southern Kyrgyzstan. The IMU emerged in Uzbekistan in the late 1990s and later drew members from neighboring Central Asian countries.
Kyrgyzstan has allied itself with the U.S.-led war against terrorism. An international Ganci airbase used for operations of the international anti-terrorist coalition is situated in the Manas airport near the capital city Bishkek.