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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Uzbek Rights Activist Is Detained in Kazakhstan

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- An Uzbek human rights activist who criticized a recent bloody government crackdown on protesters has been arrested in neighboring Kazakhstan following a request from Uzbekistan to deport him, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

Lutfulo Shamsitdinov, who fled Uzbekistan after government troops killed up to 750 people in a May uprising, was detained Monday by police in the commercial capital, Almaty, said Narasimha Rao, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Kazakhstan.

Rao said it was not clear what charges Shamsitdinov, who together with his family has been recognized as a refugee by the UN, was facing.

Rao said the UN agency protested the Kazakh authorities' move, as it violated the country's obligations under the UN convention on the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. He said no response had been received so far.

Kazakh officials were not available for comment on Tuesday.

"UNHCR is extremely concerned at the arrest of a refugee under its mandate and is urging the Kazakh authorities not to forcibly return Mr. Shamsitdinov to Uzbekistan," said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

Rao said the UN refugee agency had been planning to move Shamsitdinov and his family, including his wife and five children, who are also in Almaty, to a third country as soon as possible.

Shamsitdinov's wife and a son were detained but were released shortly afterward, family members said.

Uzbekistan has been seeking the return of asylum seekers who fled to neighboring countries after the violence in the eastern town of Andijan on May 13, claiming they are "common criminals."

New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on Kazakhstan to release the activist.

"This is a man who needs protection and he must not be sent back," said Rachel Denber, acting director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Any attempt to send him back will be a blatant violation of the UN convention on refugees."