Kyrgyzstan: Supreme Court Upheld Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov’s Life Sentence In An Appalling Decision

13/05/2020
Press release
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Paris - Geneva - Bishkek, May 13, 2020 – Today, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan upheld journalist and human rights defender Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence, in a hearing marred with irregularities. Askarov has been arbitrarily detained for 10 years and remains in prison, where his health is deteriorating quickly, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT), Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan human rights movement, and Kylym Shamy human rights centre call upon the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to immediately release Azimjan Askarov on humanitarian grounds.

On Wednesday May 13, 2020 at 2 p.m., Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court considered the cassation complaint filed by journalist and human rights defender Azimjan Askarov against an earlier verdict of the Chui Oblast Court, which had upheld his life sentence on January 24, 2017.

In a hearing marred with irregularities, which many representatives from diplomatic missions were prevented from attending while a hostile crowd was allowed to attend, to insult and to make accusations against Mr. Askarov and other human rights defenders, the Supreme Court eventually confirmed Mr. Askarov’s sentencing to life in prison today. Azimjan Askarov will appeal this decision before the UN Human Rights Committee.

I am shocked by what happened in Kyrgyzstan’s highest court today! Impunity in Askarov’s case continues. There is no political will in Kyrgyzstan for reforms and implementation of United Nations decisions ”, said Tolekan Ismailova, FIDH Vice President and President of Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan, who attended the hearing today. “ Amid this Covid-19 pandemic, we ask the authorities to immediately release Azimjan Askarov on humanitarian grounds ”, she added.

Mr. Askarov’s lawyers and Ms. Tolekan Ismailova received death threats from the relatives of the killed police officer. The police officers present at the hearing did not take any measures against the aggressive behavior of the crowd, thus condoning the violent threats and insults against Mr. Askarov’s defence team.

Mr. Askarov is 68 years old and has suffered for years from deteriorating health, including cardiac and respiratory problems. He did not receive appropriate and adequate medical attention while in detention. Mr. Askarov is among the population that is at high risk of being disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

In light of the many violations of due process and fair trial rights, the torture he was subjected to and his deteriorating health, Askarov should not spend another day behind bars! ”, concluded Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

Mr. Askarov was convicted of “participation in mass riots”, “inciting ethnic hatred” and “complicity in the killing of a police officer” during the ethnic tensions in 2010. The investigation and the subsequent trial of Mr. Askarov were marred with violations of due process and fair trial rights. Mr. Askarov’s credible allegations that he had been tortured in pre-trial detention were never properly investigated. His conviction was upheld after several appeals, including by the Supreme Court. In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) called on the Kyrgyz authorities to immediately release Mr. Askarov, quash his unfair sentence and ensure adequate compensation for the wrongful conviction.

Press contact:
· FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (English, French), +33 6 48 05 91 57 / Email: ecanan@fidh.org (Paris)
· OMCT: Ms. Iolanda Jaquemet +41 79 539 41 06 / Email : ij@omct.org (Geneva)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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