OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- A Tashkent-based rights group says exiled leaders from Kyrgyzstan's Uzbek community should be part of the reconciliation process in the wake of last year's clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
The nongovernmental organization Osh Initiative was founded in October and unites Uzbek and Kyrgyz civil activists and political figures from Kyrgyzstan.
In a statement, its members also called on May 9 for the shelving of criminal charges made against ethnic Uzbek leaders in Kyrgyzstan after the June unrest.
It also called for those who fled during the clashes and were subsequently charged with crimes but have not come back to Kyrgyzstan to be guaranteed a safe return.
Among those ethnic Uzbeks still abroad are four leading members of the ethnic Uzbek Votan-Rodina party -- Kadyrzhan Batyrov, Karamat Abdullaev, Inomzhan Abdurasulov, and Zhalalidin Salakhutdinov -- who left Kyrgyzstan after the fighting. They have been charged in absentia with inciting ethnic discord and creating armed groups.
Kyrgyz Deputy Interior Minister Melis Turganbaev said there are no obstacles for those men to return and that their safety will be guaranteed. He said they "should answer before the law for what they did."
Rashid Khojaev, who heads an Uzbek cultural center in the southern city of Osh, told RFE/RL he thinks those Uzbeks and Kyrgyz who fled the violence should return and participate in a roundtable discussion to seek ways of preventing a recurrence of the ethnic clashes, which left nearly 500 people dead.
He said the Kyrgyz government and courts should help those who wish to return.
The ethnic Uzbek community in Osh is divided over the possible return of some of its leaders. Some think they should come back, while others fear their return would only exacerbate the situation in the region.
Izatulla Rakhamttullaev, an ethnic Uzbek in Osh, told RFE/RL he does not believe the four men want to participate in the reconciliation process. He said locals have already embarked on reconciliation without their help and their mediation is not needed.