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Rights Groups Urge Kazakhstan Not To Extradite Detainees To Uzbekistan

Uzbek refugee Muslim Shukhrat Botirov in court in Almaty in March
International human rights groups have urged Kazakhstan not to extradite 32 detainees to Uzbekistan, where the rights groups say they face a real risk of torture.

In a letter to the Kazakh prosecutor-general today, the groups -- including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch -- said the men fled Uzbekistan fearing religious persecution.

They had been detained within the past year and were being sought by Uzbekistan on "religious extremism" charges.

HRW Uzbekistan researcher Steve Swerdlow said that "it's no secret that torture is systematic in Uzbekistan" and that given the criminal charges on which they were sought, the Kazakh government "has an absolute duty not to send these men back to torture."

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan has extradited an ethnic Uyghur to face terrorism charges in China, where rights groups say he could face torture.

with agency reports