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Latest attempt by the Russian authorities to illegally expel a refugee to Uzbekistan thwarted


On 31 May 2008, after almost a year’s unlawful remand in custody, Uzbek national Mukhammadsolikh Abutov, was released. The Uzbekistan authorities had sought his extradition on politically motivated trumped up charges.[1].

The events preceding his release confirmed the practice which human rights defenders have on many occasions report where administrative expulsion is used to unlawfully expel to Uzbekistan people being persecuted by the Uzbek authorities.

On 10 April 2008 the Mozhaisk City Court found Abutov’s remand in custody to be unlawful since the preventive measure chosen in June 2007 had not once been renewed.

On 22 May the Moscow Regional Court rejected the cassation appeal from the prosecutor’s office against the decision of the Mozhaisk City Court, after which the latter came into force and Abutov was entitled to immediate release.

The court’s decision reached Mozhaisk where Abutov was being held on 28 May, but he was not released then nor the next day.

On 29 May Abutov’s appeal against the decision by the Moscow Region Migration Service to turn down his application for refugee status was rejected.  It is important to note however that since he is still entitled to appeal this at cassation level, he is officially still an asylum seeker.

Over the next two days a different act was played out by the authorities.  Abutov had no registration a year ago when detained. This was now used to draw up material for an administrative offence under Article 18.8 of the Code of Administrative Offences.  Fortunately Abutov categorically refused to sign any documents without his lawyer, and the Migration Service specialist was forced to contact Abutov’s lawyer and tell him about the court hearing over this apparent administrative offence.

There is a lot to say about 31 May and the callous treatment of Abutov, but we will leave that for later and turn to the court hearing. A representative of the Migration Service, questioned as a witness, explained that Abutov’s detention after the documents had been prepared for his release from the SIZO [remand centre] was carried out on the instruction of the Deputy Head of the Moscow Region Migration Service A. Batanin. There can be no question but that this instruction was at the instigation of the FSB [Security Service].

Prosecutor Praslova informed the court that information had been received the day before that the Prosecutor General had refused to extradite Abutov.  Neither the latter nor his lawyer had been informed of this.

The prosecutor’s office representatives, who very seldom concern themselves with administrative cases, showed an inordinate interest in Abutov’s expulsion.  In this they were obstinately ignoring the law of the Russian Federation on refugees which clearly prohibits the expulsion of asylum seekers.

Abutov’s lawyer Mr Gaitayev asked for the immediate release of his client who had been held in custody for almost a year in flagrant violation of norms of the Criminal Procedure Act.  Mr Gaitayev did not dispute that Abutov had not had registration when detained a year earlier, but pointed out that the law envisages a fine for this, with expulsion being a supplementary punishment and inappropriate in light of the above-mentioned reasons.

The court also heard a submission from representative of the Civic Assistance Committee Yelena Ryabinina who stressed that Abutov had already suffered torture while imprisoned in Uzbekistan. She also presented proof that when detained a year ago by officers of the Uzbekistan Security Service without this being agreed with the Central Department of the Moscow Region Ministry of Internal Affairs, he had not been on the international wanted list.

She mentioned too that the European Court of Human Rights had recently acknowledged the systematic use of torture of prisoners in Uzbekistan when considering the case of the “Ivanovo Uzbeks”.

Judge Y. Anikeyeva passed the only ruling possible under such circumstances and imposed an administrative fine.  After a court hearing lasting more than five hours, Mukhammadsolikh Abutov, recognized by the UNHCR as being in need of international protection was finally freed.

The Civic Assistance Committee will be following the fate of Mukhammadsolikh Abutov extremely carefully since after the refusal of the Prosecutor General to extradite him and the unsuccessful attempt to use administrative expulsion to hand him over to Uzbekistan, there is now danger of an abduction and his illicit removal.  The Civic Assistance Committee has repeated demonstrated that this is the third way in which Uzbeks in Russia are returned to their persecutors in their home country.

Based on a report by Yelena Ryabinina, Civic Assistance Committee

[1] In Uzbekistan it is claimed that in 1998 Abutov, while serving a previous sentence for his religious beliefs created an extremist Muslim organization “Akhli Tavkhud” (which according to experts simply doesn’t exist) right there in the penal colony. He is accused of having drawn two prisoners into this organization. On this basis he is alleged to have undermined the constitutional system of Uzbekistan (Article 159 of the Criminal Code); and is also accused of preparation or circulation of material containing a threat to public security and order (Article 244-1) and creating, leading or taking part in religious, extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations (Article 244-2 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code)

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