KHUJAND, January 18, Asia-Plus  -- 135 residents of Sughd province were arrested last year on suspicion of being activists of religious extremist groups and 14 criminal proceedings were instituted against them, Firdavs Urunov, an acting chief prosecutor of Sughd province, announced at a news conference in Dushanbe on January 17.

“36 of them are members of the outlawed religious extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir group,” said Urunov, “A large group of members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) numbering 34 persons were arrested last year.  The preliminary investigation into their case has been completed and it has moved to a court.”

Besides, 53 people were convicted last month for involvement in a deadly 2010 car bombing, the prosecutor noted.  According to him, 48 of them of were members of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

Five of those convicted will spend the rest of their lives in prison, while the 48 others received jail sentences of five to 30 years.

We will recall that the Supreme Court in January 2006 banned 10 organizations as extremist on the basis of a suit filed by the Prosecutor-General''s Office.  The list includes the Islamic Party of Turkestan, Harakati Tablighot, Jamiyati Tablighot, Al-Qaeda, Sozmoni Tabligh, and Tojikistoni Ozod (Free Tajikistan).

Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Bayat have been banned in Tajikistan since 2000.

The Supreme Court of Tajikistan formally labeled the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamist group as an extremist organization on March 11, 2008.  The ruling followed a request submitted to the court by Tajik chief prosecutor.  The ruling means even tighter restrictions on the group''s presence on the Internet and its use of media to promote its ideology.