Reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a regional court’s ruling not to review the life sentence of prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision compounds ten years of deep injustice inflicted on a brave human rights defender who should never have been jailed.
“The conviction of Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek wrongly imprisoned for his work documenting tragic ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010, is a blatant example of the disproportionate prosecution of and unfair trials against Uzbeks after the violence.
“Kyrgyzstan’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Azimjan Askarov. They must lift this long-standing stain on their human rights record.”
In September 2010, human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of complicity in the murder of a police officer during ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June that year. His trial did not meet international fair trial standards and the court refused to investigate allegations that he was tortured in detention.
In March 2016, the UN Rights Committee found that Azimjan Askarov was tortured and given an unfair trial. Since then his case has been reviewed three times by Kyrgyzstan’s courts, and each time they have either refused to consider the case or chosen to uphold his conviction and life sentence.
On 13 May 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the July 2019 court decision to reject the request to review Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence following changes to the Kyrgyzstani Criminal Code that came into force in January 2019. Under these changes, the purported crime of which Azimjan Askarov has been convicted no longer carries a life sentence.
Azimjan Askarov’s health has deteriorated significantly during his time in detention.
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