DUSHANBE, November 17, Asia-Plus - A military court in Uzbekistan has sentenced three women and two men to 15-20 years in prison on charges of spying for Tajikistan, RIA Novosti quoted a court spokesman as saying Friday.

The court found the defendants guilty of gathering information on the location, number of personnel, and armaments of military units in Uzbekistan''s border areas.

Uzbekistan, ruled since Soviet times by the authoritarian Islam Karimov, has come under international scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses, show trials, and torture. The European Union recently renewed its sanctions against the country over the government''s refusal to investigate a violent uprising the previous year, in which troops allegedly opened fire on thousands of protestors.

Rights groups say that since the Andijan revolt, Uzbek authorities have cracked down on dissent in the country, and jailed thousands of people on charges of extremism and attempts to overthrow the government.

The court spokesman said, "One of the convicted women had a particular interest in opposition activists, and in the work of religious and extremist groups in the country."

The military court found guilty of high treason two citizens of Uzbekistan, Nargiza Mukhammadiyeva and Abdugappar Menglikulov. Two citizens of Tajikistan, Nargiza Poyanova and Surai Saminov, and a man without a citizenship, Khudodod Abdullayev were found guilty of espionage.