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Malaysia frees 11 Uighurs, defying China handover request

AFP  |  Kuala Lumpur 

has freed 11 ethnic Uighur Muslims who escaped from immigration detention in Thailand, their said Friday, ignoring a request from to deport the group to

In the dramatic breakout last November, 25 members of the persecuted minority used blankets to climb out of their cells in a daring pre-dawn escape from immigration detention in

Eleven of them, all men, escaped overland to neighbouring Malaysia, where they were caught and charged with illegal entry.

and share a common border, which is easily penetrable.

The group were freed and flew to on Tuesday, their Moin told AFP.

"Prosecutors decided to drop all charges on humanitarian grounds," he said.

The decision was made after lawyers wrote to the Malaysian urging that the charges be withdrawn, Fahmi added.

(HRW) welcomed the group's release.

"These 11 men faced detention, torture or worse if they were returned to China," HRW said.

had asked Malaysia's previous government to repatriate the group in February, but new has taken a more independent stand with

Since coming to power in May, Mahathir has cancelled more than USD 20 billion worth of mega-infrastructure projects backed by Chinese firms, including rail and

Mahathir's predecessor was seen as too friendly with

last year deported to 29 Uighurs it said were involved with Islamic militants.

Uighurs are persecuted in western China, where they are subject to strict regulations suppressing public displays of religion.

Over a million Uighur and other Muslim minority people have been detained in re-education camps for offences as minor as making contact with family members outside the country or sharing Islamic holiday greetings on social media, the UN says.

Beijing has denied reports of the camps but evidence is mounting in the form of government documents and testimonies from former detainees.

A scathing US congressional report released this month accused China of the unprecedented repression of its ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, with authoritarian tactics potentially constituting "crimes against humanity".

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, October 12 2018. 12:30 IST