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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
UNHCR warns on Uzbek refugee
By Natalia Antelava
in Almaty

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees says Kazakhstan should not deport an Uzbek refugee who was arrested in the former capital, Almaty, last week.

Gabdurafikh Temirbaev received UNHCR refugee status after last year's government crackdown in the Uzbek city of Andijan.

Human rights groups say the Uzbek authorities are continuing to track down people connected to the events.

They have also criticised Uzbekistan's neighbours for helping those efforts.

The UNHCR says Kazakhstan is a signatory to the international conventions on refugees and torture and that sending Gabdurafikh Temirbaev back to Uzbekistan would be a breach of both.

Mr Temirbaev was arrested last week when - according to his wife - three Kazakh security officers broke into their home in the middle of the night and took him away.

Earlier this year the New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the Kazakh government for returning nine Uzbek refugees who were seeking political asylum.

The Kazakh authorities denied they had deported the men, saying they had been taken away by the Uzbek security service.

But it is the cooperation between the Uzbek and Kazakh police that worries rights campaigners.

The nine men who were sent back have since disappeared. There are widespread reports of routine torture in Uzbek prisons, including stories of prisoners being beaten and even boiled to death.

But confirming any of it is nearly impossible.

Over the past year President Islam Karimov has not only banned many journalists from working freely in the country, but also shut down dozens of international organisations, the UNHCR among them.

His government is openly angry with the West for its reluctance to accept the official Uzbek version of events in Andijan.

Hundreds of civilians fled Andijan last year after troops opened fire on demonstrators. Officials say the Uzbek army put down an armed Islamic uprising, but eye-witnesses said they opened fire on peaceful protestors, and that hundreds were killed.


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