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Tajik National Wanted By Uzbekistan Detained In Kazakhstan

TARAZ, Kazakhstan -- A rights organization says a Tajik citizen wanted by the Uzbek authorities for terrorism has been detained in southern Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Vitaly Ponomarev of the Moscow-based human rights watchdog Memorial told RFE/RL on June 1 that Umarali Abdurakhmonov was detained in the town of Taraz on May 21.

Ponomarev said Memorial had learned of the detention from an associate of Abdurakhmonov who had traveled to Moscow and visited the rights group.

There's been no official confirmation that Abdurakhmonov is in Kazakh custody.

But a lawyer representing Kazakhstan's Bureau for Human Rights in Taraz told RFE/RL on June 1 that Abdurakhmonov is currently being held at the detention center in the Merke district of southern Zhambyl Oblast.

Ruslan Khalidov said Abdurakhmonov will be transferred to a detention center in Taraz on June 5. He added that Abdurakhmonov has officially asked for political asylum in Kazakhstan.

Abdurakhmonov is wanted in Uzbekistan for conspiracy and for his alleged participation in the activities of banned religious organizations.

The Uzbek authorities launched a search for Abdurakhmonov in March 2004 after terrorist acts in Tashkent that killed three people and injured over 20.

In September 2004, a court in Tashkent found 33 citizens of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan guilty of perpetrating the attacks and sentenced them to long terms in jail. An international search was announced for six more suspects, including Abdurakhmonov.

Ponomarev said that about two years ago, Abdurakhmonov applied for refugee status at the UN Office in Moscow but was refused.

He said that Abdurakhmonov could face torture and an unfair trial if extradited to Uzbekistan.