Another Karakalpak Activist Facing Extradition To Uzbekistan Released From Kazakh Detention

September 19, 2023 at 08:25

Another Karakalpak Activist Facing Extradition To Uzbekistan Released From Kazakh Detention

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service September 18, 2023

Kazakh authorities have released from detention another Karakalpak activist who faces extradition to Uzbekistan, where supporters say she would be at serious risk of politically motivated prosecution and torture over last year's mass protests in Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan region.

Kazakhstan-based Karakalpak activist Aqylbek Muratbai said over the weekend that Raisa Khudaibergenova had been released after spending exactly one year in detention awaiting a Kazakh court decision on her possible extradition to Uzbekistan. Kazakh law does not allow individuals awaiting extradition to be held for more than one year.

Last week, two other Karakalpak activists, Koshkarbai Toremuratov and Zhangeldy Zhaksymbetov, were released from Kazakh custody, also after spending exactly one year behind bars awaiting a court decision on extradition.

Muratbai said at the time that Uzbekistan's extradition request remained valid and that Kazakh authorities rejected asylum requests by Toremuratov and Zhaksymbetov, who appealed the decision. It may take up to one year for the appeals to be considered by Kazakhstan's Supreme Court.

As for Khudaibergenova, Muratbai said she had nothing to do with the mass protests last year in Karakalpakstan, as she had lived in Almaty for many years and worked as a cardiologist in Kazakhstan's largest city.

In January, an Uzbek court sentenced 22 Karakalpak activists to prison terms on charges including undermining the constitutional order for taking part in the mass protests in Karakalpakstan in July 2022.

In March, another 39 Karakalpak activists accused of taking part in the protests in the region's capital, Nukus, were convicted, with 28 of them sentenced to prison terms of between five and 11 years. Eleven defendants were handed parole-like sentences.

Uzbek authorities say 21 people died in Karakalpakstan during the protests, which were sparked by the announcement of a planned change to the constitution that would have undermined the region's right to self-determination.

However, the Austrian-based Freedom for Eurasia human rights group claimed in July that at least 70 people were killed during the unrest.

The violence forced Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to make a rare about-face and scrap the proposal.

Mirziyoev accused "foreign forces" of being behind the unrest, without further explanation, before backing away from the proposed changes.

Karakalpaks are a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.

Source: karakalpak-activist-released/32597757.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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