Uzbekistan Transfers 'Islamic Extremist' To Less-Strict Facility

Uzbek authorities have transferred a man who was convicted of Islamic extremism in a high-profile trial from a Tashkent prison to a less-strict facility.

Rights activist Oktam Pardaev told RFE/RL that Aramais Avakian had been moved to a colony settlement in his native region of Jizzax in eastern Uzbekistan on May 4.

Pardaev also said that Avakian had been informed by officials that he will be released in two months.

A colony settlement is a penitentiary in which convicts live close to a factory or farm where they work.

Avakian, a 36-year-old ethnic Armenian and a Christian by faith, was convicted of extremism in February 2016 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Four other men charged in the case were sentenced to prison terms of between 5 1/2 and 12 years. Avakian, who was arrested in September 2015, was the only defendant who pleaded not guilty.

All five were accused of plotting to carry out "anticonstitutional activities" in mostly Muslim Uzbekistan and of being sympathizers of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, among other charges.

Avakian's relatives say local authorities in Paxtakor district trumped up the charges against him in order to take over his fish farm.

Avakian's lawyer, Olim Qobilov, was arrested in March 2016 and was later convicted of bribery and extortion and sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released in June 2016 without any public explanation.

Uzbek and international rights organizations have demanded the release of Avakian and the other four men, saying that they were convicted on trumped-up charges and that their rights had been violated while in custody.