Tashkent keeps silent about asylum seekers expelled from Kazakhstan

Uznews.net – Uzbek security services are refusing to confirm the arrival in Uzbekistan of the 28 Uzbek asylum seekers expelled from Kazakhstan on Thursday. The whereabouts of the men remains a mystery.

The Uzbek Interior Ministry has given no response to Uznews.net’s inquiry about the fate of the 28 men expelled from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan on 9 June. As this article was published Interior Minister Bahodyr Matlyubov had not replied to a written inquiry sent to him by Uznews.net. It included questions about the whereabouts of the men, their fate, charges brought against them, their legal rights and their treatment.

The National Security Service also refused to talk to an Uznews.net journalist, saying that the journalist was not accredited with the country’s Foreign Ministry.

The extradition of Uzbek religious asylum seekers from Kazakhstan drew protests from human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch which described the Kazakh government’s decision as illegal.

The extradition of the asylum seekers, who had been held in detention in Almaty since June 2010 at Uzbekistan’s request, was revealed last night when their wives went to see them at the police department detention centre.

A committee to protect the asylum seekers told the women that their husbands were not being held at the police department any more and that they had been moved to an unknown location.

A Kazakh Foreign Ministry official later told the BBC that Uzbek asylum seekers had been extradited to Uzbekistan.

A spokesmen for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry told Human Rights Watch that Uzbekistan had provided diplomatic assurances that the expelled men would not be subject to torture.

Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said that the international community should condemn Kazakhstan in the harshest possible terms.

"The Kazakh government has deliberately and forcibly sent individuals back to Uzbekistan, where they face likely torture and persecution," Denber said.

"This appalling move sets a terrible precedent throughout the region. Members of the international community should waste no time in condemning this in the strongest terms."

A group of 32 men – who are all followers of the disgraced imam, Obid-kori Nazarov, who is now living in exile in Sweden – was arrested in Almaty in June 2010 at Uzbekistan’s request.

Tashkent suspects the group of extremist activities. The Kazakh authorities, responding to the campaign mounted to protect the men, said they belonged to a banned Islamic organisation and posed a threat.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least four other Uzbek asylum seekers remain in custody in Almaty and their future is unclear.