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Kazakhstan Extradites 29 Uzbek Asylum-Seekers Despite Protests

Children of Uzbek asylum seekers pictured in September 2010
ALMATY -- Kazakh officials say they have extradited 29 Uzbek asylum seekers to Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The asylum seekers spent one year in an Almaty detention center after the Kazakh Migration Services refused to provide them with refugee status. The Almaty Appeals Court upheld that decision.

Almaty City Deputy Prosecutor Tashkenbai Aubakirov confirmed on June 9 that the men had been extradited.

Both domestic and international human rights organizations say the men may face jail and torture on their return to Uzbekistan, where they are wanted for alleged involvement in religious extremism.

Veronika Szente Golston, Human Rights Watch's advocacy director for Europe and
Central Asia, told RFE/RL the extradition is a human tragedy.

"The reaction is that it is an absolutely unquestionable act on the part of the Kazakh authorities to have deported these individuals to Uzbekistan where they say it's a clear...tragedy, it is a human tragedy and it is a travesty and Kazakhstan should face consequences for this," Szente Golston said.

Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International's expert on Central Asia, told RFE/RL the Uzbek men were not able to properly appeal the Kazakh Migration authorities' decision.

"You know, the men have not had access to proper appeals procedures, there were lots of problems with that. So we are really dismayed that Kazakhstan just chose to go ahead and send them back to torture," Weicherding said.

The Uzbek wives of 12 of the men picketed the Almaty prosecutor's office on June 9 demanding confirmation or denial of the report that their husbands had been extradited. Almaty police temporarily detained some of the women.

The wives and rights groups say the men were active Muslim worshippers but had no connections to Islamist groups.

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