Bishkek - Kyrgyzstan has sentenced a leading imam to five years in prison on extremism charges and for alleged support to the Islamic State group.
Imam Rashot Kamalov, who is from the country's volatile south, was sentenced on charges of inciting religious hatred and distributing extremist material, the regional court in the town of Kara-Suu confirmed Thursday.
Kamalov's supporters say he is innocent and has been targeted due to sermons which are often critical of the government.
His lawyers argue that his reference to a "caliphate" in a sermon last year was taken out of context by the prosecution, which claimed it as an endorsement of the IS.
Kamalov's legal team will appeal Wednesday's sentence.
Also Read: ISIS blows up ancient Arch of Triumph in Palmyra
Hundreds of citizens from Central Asian Kyrgyzstan are thought to be fighting for the IS, mainly in Syria.
The former Soviet state claimed to have foiled an IS-linked plot to destabilise the country after six alleged militants were killed in armed battles with government forces in July.
The fragile landlocked country held parliamentary elections on Sunday, five years after a bloody revolution and ethnic clashes killed over 500 people.
A total of six parties passed into the parliament in a toughly-contested vote topped by the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK) loyal to President Almazbek Atambayev.