A planeload of 440 Uzbek refugees who fled a government crackdown in May left for Europe last week after the United Nations and human rights groups overcame the Kyrgyz Prosecutor General's objections to their departure.
But the fate of the remaining 15 refugees -- all but four of them granted refugee status by the U.N. -- was far from over.
"We propose to hand the remaining 15 people to the Uzbek side," Deputy Prosecutor General Nurlan Dzheenaliyev told a news conference. "The Prosecutor General's position was clear from the very beginning, and we will stand our ground."
U.N. and human rights groups fear that, if handed back, the 15 could face torture or execution. In 2003 a special U.N. rapporteur concluded that Uzbekistan was systematically using torture in its prisons.
Witnesses said Uzbek troops and security forces killed some 500 people on May 13 when they fired into a crowd to quell an uprising in the city of Andizhan. Uzbek authorities say 187 people were killed, and dubbed most of them "terrorists and extremists".
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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