Uzbekistan: 14 go on trial amid torture allegations

The men are accused of distributing literature and other materials that threaten public security and of setting up an extremist religious group.

One of the defendants, Qodyrali Nishanbayev, claims that he had been tortured and forced to sign a confession, his lawyer Farkhod Khatamov said.

Surat Ikramov, a rights activist who has been monitoring their cases, said the other defendants' relatives made similar allegations.

President Islam Karimov's government has long been criticized for widespread abuses in its harsh campaign against religious extremism, including systematic use of torture and the jailing through unfair trials of thousands of innocent believers who practice Islam outside state-controlled institutions.

Authorities have stepped up pressure on dissent, arresting and trying dozens following last year's uprising in the eastern city of Andijan, according to the AP.

Rights groups and witnesses say more than 700 people, most of them peaceful demonstrators, were killed in the crackdown, but the government contends the uprising was encouraged by Islamic extremists, and puts the death toll at 187.