Uzbekistan demands Kazakhstan extradite Protestant pastor

Another Uzbek religious refugee may be extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan where he would face a prison term of up to 15 years.

Uzbek law-enforcement agencies are demanding the extradition of Protestant pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov, a native of Nukus, who received refugee status from the Kazakh mission of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Forum 18 religious news service reports.

An Almaty court issued a ruling on the 40-day detention of Djabbarbergenov on 7 September.

Then, according to an extradition request, the man was accused under two articles of the Uzbek Criminal Code, each of which envisages a jail term of up to three years.

Later the Uzbek authorities changed one of the charges and now Djabbarbergenov is facing up to 15 years in prison.

At the same time, if a Kazakh court rules not to extradite the pastor, Kazakhstan may bring terrorism charges against him.

Djabbarbergenov, who was accused of organising illegal religious meetings, fled Nukus, the Karakalpak capital, in August 2007 for Almaty where he obtained UNHCR refugee status in February 2008.

In May 2008, Djabbarbergenov was detained by the Kazakh National Security Committee, but he was released only after the involvement of the UNHCR.

This June, the UN Committee Against Torture accused Kazakhstan of violating rights of refugees in connection with the extradition of 28 Muslim refugees who were prosecuted in Uzbekistan. The UN committee demanded explanations from the Kazakh authorities.

The Kazakh authorities who have applied for the membership of the UN Human Rights Committee say that they will be able to increase the authority and efficiency of the committee.

However, the incident with the extradition of refugees may seriously damage its membership prospects, Forum 18 said.