BISHKEK. A Kyrgyz court today sentenced a man to 25 years in prison on charges of terrorism, hostage-taking and membership in a banned group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
The defendant, Sherali Akbotoyev, 41, had confessed to some of the charges against him. His lawyer, Arstan Aijigitov, said that he disagrees with the length of the sentence.
During the court hearing, Akbotoyev rejected information from the Kyrgyz security forces on his detention in Afghanistan last May. He said that he voluntarily came to the Kyrgyz Embassy to Tehran after the collapse of the Taliban regime and the destruction of main part of the IMU base in Afghanistan.
Akbotoyev, a Kyrgyz citizen with religious education, said that in August 1999 he was one of the mediators who helped free hostages from IMU militants in the Batken region. As Akbotoyev claims that while freeing the hostages, IMU members forced him to join them. He then went to Afghanistan together with his family, where chaired one of the departments in the IMU office.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or IMU has been linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. It emerged in Uzbekistan but has drawn members from neighboring Central Asian countries.
The United States designated the IMU as a terrorist organization in 2000 following the kidnapping of four American mountain climbers in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Compiled and translated by Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev and edited by Patrick Whalen in Prague