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Amnesty International Demands the Release of Ethnic Uzbek Activist Jailed for Life on Fabricated Charges

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International
is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of an ethnic Uzbek
human rights activist convicted of involvement in the murder of a policeman
during the June violence in Kyrgyzstan.

“The charges against Azimzhan Askarov were
fabricated to target him for his legitimate work as human rights defender
and he must be released immediately,” said Andrea Huber, Europe and Central
Asia deputy program director at Amnesty International.

Azimzhan Askarov, director of the human rights
Vozdukh (Air), was sentenced today to life imprisonment
and the confiscation of his property after an unfair trial by the Nooken
district court in southern Kyrgyzstan.

He was also convicted on charges of “attempting
to participate in hostage taking,” “storage of ammunition,” “storage
of extremist literature,” “inciting ethnic hatred” and “organizing
mass disorder."

The activist had filmed and photographed
killings and arson attacks on mostly Uzbek homes, allegedly capturing the
involvement of security forces in the June violence in Bazar-Korgan, before
being detained by police on June 15.

Six men and one woman were tried alongside
him on a range of charges, from involvement in the murder to “organizing
mass disorder” in Bazar-Korgan, where the police officer was killed on
June 13 by a crowd that had staged a roadblock on a highway leading into
the southern city.


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Four of them were also sentenced to life
imprisonment and the confiscation of property; three were sentenced to
prison terms ranging from nine to 20 years.

Azimzhan Askarov and three of the other defendants
appeared at the September 6 hearing with visible bruises on their faces
which had not been visible at a previous hearing, suggesting they had been
beaten while in custody.

Human rights monitors also noted other irregularities
during the trial. In breach of fair trial procedure, Azimzhan Askarov’s
lawyer was reportedly denied a request to meet with him, while others present
in the court, mainly police and relatives of the murdered police officer,
were allowed to address questions to the defendants at random. Relatives
of the murdered officer had previously assaulted the lawyers in the courtroom.

“The trial against Azimzhan Askarov was
blatantly unfair," said Huber. "Any appeal against the verdict
must be heard outside of southern Kyrgyzstan to ensure his safety and that
of his lawyers."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


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Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people – no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization.

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