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24.11.2008

Russian Federation: New politically motivated extradition to Uzbekistan

   

On 15 November in Ulan-Uda (Republic of Buryatia), Bakhtierzhon Umarov (b. 1974), originally from Uzbekistan, was detained after being declared wanted by the Uzbekistan authorities. He had recently taken Russian citizenship.  The information was reported on 21 November by the site Islam-news which cites “Memorial”. (http://www.islamnews.ru/index.php?name=News&op=view&sid=15863).

Umarov is accused of encroachment on the constitutional system of Uzbekistan (Article 159 § 3 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code); preparation or circulation of material constituting a threat to public security and order (Article 244-1 § 3) and the creation, leadership or participation in religious, extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations (Article 244-2 § 1).

These three articles are part of the standard stock of charges which the Uzbekistan authorities bring against Muslims persecuted for their religious convictions. Umarov is specifically accused of taking part in the banned party “Khizb ut-Takhrir” in 1999-2002.

It should be noted that in Russia the organization “Khizb ut-Takhrir” was only banned in 2003.  This means that regardless of whether or not the charges are founded, during the period in question participation in the organization was not a criminal offence according to Russian legislation.

Bakhtierzhon Umarov, born in Korasuv, Andijon region, has been living in Ulan-Uda since 2002 after going there to find work. During the last 6 years he has gained the respect of local fellow believers and become the Imam of the local Muslim community. He took on Russian citizenship and received his passport on 11 July this year. In accordance with legislation he provided the competent bodies in the Russian Federation with a document confirming the lack of any criminal record or criminal prosecution in his homeland, this having been issued on 30 May 2005 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs Department of the Andijon region, and renounced his Uzbekistan citizenship.

On 10 September this year an inspector of the Department of the Federal Migration Service [FMS] for Buryatia removed Umarov’s passport, claiming that it had been issued with infringements. He was informed that the infringement was that the Russian passport had not been authorized by the FSB [Security Service] in Buryatia.

On 13 September 2008 the Andijon Regional Department of the Uzbekistan Security Service presented the above-mentioned accusations and placed Umarov on the wanted list claiming that “he is hiding from the criminal investigation and his whereabouts are unknown”. On the same day a court in Andijon issued an order for him to be taken into custody.

On 15 November Umarov was detained in Ulan-Uda and placed in a police temporary holding facilities.  The grounds given were a fax from Uzbekistan of the documents about his being on the wanted list and the order for his arrest. Umarov’s lawyer Vladimir Buranov ascertained that the prosecutor’s office had not been informed by the police of the arrest and learned of it from the lawyer himself.

On 17 November a District Prosecutor in Ulan-Uda issued a decision to hold Umarov in custody for 6 months pending extradition to Uzbekistan. It should be mentioned that the document calls Umarov a citizen of Uzbekistan although as mentioned he had renounced this on taking on Russian citizenship.

This sequence of events cannot fail to elicit questions as to what led to Umarov’s criminal prosecution in Uzbekistan, initiated six years after he left the country.

One reason suggested is the building of a mosque in Ulan-Uda on money raised by Buryatia Muslims who do not have a place of worship. Members of the local community told the Civic Assistance Committee that the building of the mosque had annoyed the security services who asked about how it was financed and on several occasions interrogated Muslims, putting provocative questions.

The possibility cannot be excluded that the FSB found an excuse for annulling the Russian citizenship of the Imam of the future Mosque Bakhtierzhon Umarov and to get rid of him with the help of their Uzbekistan colleagues.  A friendly hint and lo and behold the accusations emerged.

This is not the first time that a Russian citizen of Uzbekistan origin has had his citizenship revoked in order to facilitate extradition to his country of origin. 

In 2005 the same procedure was applied to Alsher Usmanov who was abducted from Kazan and later sentenced in Uzbekistan to 8 years imprisonment.

That same year Khatam Khadzhimatov was detained in Ivanovo together with 13 others and was also stripped of his Russian citizenship.  It was by chance that he escaped the fate of the other “Ivanovo Uzbeks” who after 20 months in custody in the Ivanovo SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] have still not been able to leave Russia for the country offering them asylum.

In 2007, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights had placed a halt on any expulsion, Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov), whose Russian passport had previously been declared invalid was forcibly returned to Uzbekistan. Kamaliyev, who is married to a Russian national, was later sentenced in Uzbekistan to 11 years imprisonment.

 This month Strasbourg halted the extradition of Abdulpazhon Isakov who has been held for more than 8 months in the Tyumen SIZO, and who is appealing against the ruling that his Russian passport was obtained unlawfully.

Slightly abridged from the report by Yelena Ryabinina, Civic Assistance Committee

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