Kazakh authorities arrest suspected Uzbek Islamic extremist

Authorities in southern Kazakhstan arrested a suspected Uzbek Islamic radical as relatives began a fight against his hand-over to Uzbekistan due to fears of torture and an unfair trial, his sister said Monday. Rukhitdin Fahrutdinov, 38, former imam of a mosque in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, has been on the run since 1998 and topped the list of suspected Islamic extremists wanted by Uzbek authorities.

Fahrutdinov was suspected of leading the Tashkent branch of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group allegedly behind the bomb attacks in Tashkent in 1999 and several armed incursions in 1999-2000.

Fahrutdinov was arrested in the southern Kazakh city of Shymkent on Nov. 23, his sister Zukhra told The Associated Press in the former Kazakh capital, Almaty.

Nurlan Muratulla, a spokesman for the national security agency's regional branch, confirmed that "some" Uzbeks suspected of religious extremism had been arrested in Shymkent last week, but said the information on them was "for now" closed.

Uzbek officials weren't immediately available for comment. Fahrutdinov's sister denied that her brother was involved in any militant activity. She said all the evidence against him was based on testimony from other jailed suspects.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government has drawn strong international criticism over alleged abuses in its relentless crackdown on dissident Muslims, who practice Islam outside state-run institutions.

More than 6,000 alleged religious extremists have been jailed in recent years through trials based on confessions extracted through torture, and dozens disappeared, rights groups say.

"It's better if he stays here. If he is extradited, they will do anything they want with him. We know how they work," Zukhra said. She said the family intended to hire a lawyer and try to prevent Fahrutdinov's extradition, reports the AP. I.L.

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