Kyrgyzstan’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Azimjan Askarov, a human rights defender serving a life sentence on fabricated charges, in line with the UN Human Rights Committee decision, Amnesty International urged. His case will be reviewed by the Supreme Court on July 11.
“I personally have known Askarov since 2005 when I was investigating the mass killings of demonstrators by Uzbekistani security forces in Andizhan and he was involved in helping refugees. The prosecution and jailing of this human rights defender is a blatant miscarriage of justice. He should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Kyrgyzstan now has a chance to remedy this injustice,” said Anna Neistat, Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International, who will attend the hearing on July 11.
Amnesty International believes Askarov is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek, was accused of being an accomplice to the murder of a police officer during several days of ethnic violence that took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Three months later he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Before his trial, Askarov was repeatedly beaten, abused, and denied medical treatment.
Amnesty International believes that the charges against him were fabricated and politically motivated. In April 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged Kyrgyzstan to immediately release Askarov, recognizing that he had been arbitrarily detained, tortured and denied his right to a fair trial. In accordance with Kyrgyzstani criminal procedure legislation, decisions adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee, through its individual communications procedure, open the way to reconsider criminal cases under new circumstances.
Amnesty International is also calling on the authorities to ensure that adequate facilities are provided, including security measures, to guarantee the right to a public hearing through the safe and unimpeded access to the Supreme Court of all wanting to attend the review, including lawyers and media. This is essential given instances of violence at previous trials in relation to the June 2010 events in the south of Kyrgyzstan, when relatives of Kyrgyz victims attacked lawyers representing ethnic Uzbeks.