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Uzbeks Jail Refugees Extradited From Kazakstan

By News Briefing Central Asia

At the end of August, two asylum-seekers extradited from Kazakstan in June were jailed by Uzbek courts in what human rights defenders said were flawed trials. 

Faizullakhon Akbarov from Uzbekistan’s in Syrdarya region was sentenced to five years in prison, and Ahmad Boltaev from the neighbouring Surkhandarya province got 15 years. Both had been accused of violent crimes and membership of a group the authorities call Jihodchilar (“Jihadists”).

Akbarov and Boltaev were among a group of 28 asylum-seekers in Kazakstan whom the authorities forcibly sent to Uzbekistan on June 9 after detaining them for a year. (See Shock as Kazakstan Hands Refugees Over to Uzbeks.)

The extradition went ahead despite Kazakstan’s obligation as a signatory to international conventions on refugees and human rights not to return people to countries where they would be at risk of serious mistreatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has noted that torture is used on a systematic basis in Uzbekistan.

The Ezgulik human rights group reports that another ten members of the group are currently on trial in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

The Uzbek government has remained silent on the trials, and human rights defenders are concerned that the secrecy is cover for profound flaws in the conduct of the cases.

"After reading out the sentence, the judge said I had no right of appeal," Rahima Akbarova, the mother of one of the defendants, said. "I wasn’t even allowed to look at the verdict."

Suhrob Ismailov, leader of Expert Working Group, a think-tank in Uzbekistan, fears that the worst predictions about the consequences of extradition have come true.
"We have information that following extradition, the refugees were subjected to torture and psychological pressure for the purpose of extracting confessions," he said.

This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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