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Kyrgyzstan: Court Upholds Unjust Life Sentence for Human Rights Defender
In response to the Chui Regional Court decision to uphold the life sentence of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Azimjan Askarov is a political prisoner, convicted on baseless and politicized charges, whom the UN has adjudicated was arbitrarily detained, tortured, and denied a fair trial,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “The court’s action to ignore the UN decision ordering Mr. Askarov’s immediate release is a miscarriage of justice and reveals a deeply flawed judiciary lacking independence."
Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights defender, was arrested in June 2010 on falsified charges of organizing mass riots and killing a policeman during violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. After three months of harsh pretrial detention, Askarov was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2015, in honor of his professional achievements and in recognition of his unjustified imprisonment, Askarov was awarded the annual Human Rights Defender Award from the U.S. Department of State. In April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Askarov had been “arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured and mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his trial defense” and ordered his immediate release. In response, the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic ordered a retrial, which commenced in October 2016 and concluded on January 24, 2017 when the Chui Regional Court upheld his life sentence.
Kyrgyzstan is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2016, and receives a democracy score of 5.89, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.