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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Under Fire Over Refugees

Human rights groups on Wednesday accused the Federal Security Service of hunting down and illegally deporting Uzbek and Chinese political refugees.

Moscow-based Memorial and the Civic Assistance Committee said the FSB was using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to create a unified search list for treaty-member police agencies.

"Russian special services over recent years have sharply increased their cooperation ... to forcibly hand over citizens who have fled because of repression," the report said.

"In the last two years, religious and political refugees from Uzbekistan living peaceably in Russian territory for eight to 10 years have been actively hunted and sent back," said Yelena Ryabinina, Memorial's Central Asia refugee aid director.

Many of those refugees left Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, Ryabinina said, to avoid persecution by authorities who were intent on repressing a resurgent Muslim civil society under the guise of hunting down terrorists.

Russian authorities have begun extraditing members of China's Falun Gong as part of the single-search list for SCO member states, Ryabinina said.

A spokesman for the FSB declined to comment.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- has boosted its purview in recent years to include drug interdiction, joint military exercises and energy talks.

The report documents the case of Alisher Usmanov, not to be confused with the Russian billionaire with the same name, who in 2005 was illegally stripped of his Russian citizenship by authorities in Kazan. He was later abducted and sent back to Uzbekistan to serve an eight-year prison sentence.

Later in 2005, police in Ivanovo, near Moscow, rounded up a group of Uzbek immigrant businessmen and took them to a police station, where, according to local and international media reports, Uzbek authorities awaited them with cattle prods.

The Ivanovo Uzbeks were never charged with a crime in Russia, though a day after their detention, documents from Uzbekistan arrived accusing them of murder, conspiracy to overthrow the government and terrorism. Their handover to Uzbek authorities was prevented with the help of the European Court of Human Rights, Ryabinina said.