Kyrgyzstan will send 15 refugees back to Uzbekistan, where the United Nations fears they may face torture or execution, in 10 days unless a third country offers them asylum first, its top prosecutor was quoted by Reuters as saying on Friday.
Uzbekistan, which has been pressing its smaller Central Asian neighbor to return the refugees, says they are criminals and terrorists. They were among 500 people who fled a government crackdown in the eastern town of Andijan in May.
More than 400 refugees were flown under UN supervision to Romania last week, but the 15, believed by the Kyrgyz to have escaped from jail in Andijan, have remained in police custody.
Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov, who has repeatedly said they are criminals, told a radio station that no foreign state had yet come forward to offer them asylum.
“We will give them to a third country if that country takes responsibility for what they did before the Andizhan events. These were grave crimes. Then I will hand them over,” he told Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz service, Azattyk. However, he did not specify the crimes they were accused of.
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