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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Confusion Reigns in Uzbek Case

A Moscow appeals court overturned a deportation order for an Uzbek asylum seeker, a court official said Friday, but the decision came more than a week after Russia sent him back to Uzbekistan, where rights activists said he faces torture.

The Moscow City Court on Thursday upheld an appeal against a lower court's Oct. 17 deportation ruling and ordered Rustam Muminov's case to be heard again, said court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova.

Muminov was detained last month as he sought help at the Moscow office of a Russian rights group, the Civic Assistance Committee; he had already appealed to the United Nations refugee agency, or the UNHCR, for protection.

Civic Assistance Committee head Svetlana Gannushkina denounced the asylum seeker's deportation as a violation of Russian law because his appeal was pending. She accused the Federal Security Service of pressuring immigration authorities.

"They had promised not to expel him until after a decision was reached on the appeal," she said. "The FSB acted completely illegally."

Uzbekistan's authoritarian regime had accused Muminov of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned group that advocates the establishment of a worldwide Islamic state, and had demanded his extradition from Russia this year.

A Russian court rejected that request, but he was re-arrested on suspicion of violations of Russian immigration laws. Muminov was deported on Oct. 31, the same day the European Court of Human Rights asked Russia to suspend the extradition pending its consideration of the case, human rights groups say.

Gannushkina said she had no news of Muminov since his deportation but she was trying to reach his family and arrange for a lawyer. "I have no idea what they are doing with him," she said.

The UNHCR said one week ago that it was concerned about the Uzbek's forced return, which it said violated basic refugee law. London-based rights group Amnesty International warned that Muminov could face torture or even the death penalty in his home country.