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Kyrgyzstan: "Beaten human rights defender receives life sentence after 'politically motivated' trial"
Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimjan Askarov has received a life sentence after a trial marked by threats, intimidation and absence of due process. Azimjan Askarov, a prominent human rights defender and director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) appeared in court with visible signs of having been beaten.
Further Information“Front Line is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov” said the organisation's Executive Director Mary Lawlor in Dublin today.
“This travesty of a trial was a legal charade based on politically motivated charges in which the defendants were routinely subjected to harassment and intimidation and denied due process of law” said Ms Lawlor.
Azimjan was one of 8 defendants found guilty on September 15 of killing a policeman during ethnically charged clashes in the southern Kyrgyz village of Bazar-Korgon in June.
Kyrgyzstan's human rights ombudsman Tursunbek Akun, said in a statement that the court case against Askarov was unfair and "fabricated." He also indicated that his office had carried out a parallel investigation and found no evidence to link Azimjan Askarov to the crime. Azimjan Askarov has in the past campaigned against the use of torture in the very prison in which he is now being held.
"There were a lot of violations of rights in this case," said Askarov's lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov. "First of all, Askarov was not allowed to meet with his lawyers to discuss his point of view. During the trial there were no witnesses from the defense side, there were only witnesses for the prosecution. I have four-to-five witnesses, too, and [rights activist] Aziza Abdyrasulova was one of them. But when I said I wanted to call her to the trial, [the victim's relatives] told me openly, 'If your Aziza comes here, she won't leave this place alive.'"
"Now, the person who risked his safety and life to prevent the ethnic clashes is found guilty of organising the ethnic clashes. That is ridiculous." said Abdyrasulova.
Front Line, the Dublin based International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders was represented by an observer at the trial which took place on 6 September 2010 at the regional court at Nooken, a small town near Bazar Korgon in the Jalalabad region of southern Kyrgyzstan.
The trial hearing was not in conformity with the Kyrgyz constitution nor with international fair trial standards. Azimjan Askarov, showed visible signs of having been beaten and had only been able to see his lawyer for 30 minutes. In addition to the allegations of ill-treatment and torture Front Line is also concerned at breaches of fair trial procedure during the course of the hearing. Nurbek Toktakunov's request to meet with his client was rejected by the Judge. Both the Judge and the Prosecutor noted that the lawyer could meet with his client at the end of the trial process.
During the hearing, Azimjan Askarov's lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, was heckled by supporters of the prosecution, who shouted “You are working for western money, we will kill you. We will kill your family and will eat your children”. The Front Line observer who attended the hearing reported that the courtroom was filled with policemen in uniform, along with the family of the deceased policeman and their supporters.
“Front Line has previously issued several urgent appeals in relation to the harassment, intimidation and violent attacks against Azimjan Askarov and his supporters, as well as the suspected torture of Azimjan Askarov in detention” added Ms Lawlor.
Front Line remains gravely concerned for the physical and psychological security and integrity of Azimjan Askarov in prison, and for the safety of his relatives and supporters. In particular, allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Azimjan Askarov whilst in detention are extremely worrying particularly given the decision of Jalalabad City Court on 26 July 2010 to uphold a decision by the General Prosecutor's Office of Jalalabad not to investigate claims that Azimjan Askarov was tortured or ill-treated after his arrest, on the basis that injuries he suffered were inflicted by a cell-mate.
Front Line is calling on the Kyrgyz authorities to:
1. Release Azimjan Askarov immediately and unconditionally
2. Pending his release - take immediate and effective measures to ensure the safety and physical and psychological integrity of Azimjan Askarov, in particular through his immediate transfer from Bazar Korgon police station to a more secure place of detention in Bishkek;
3. Immediately carry out a comprehensive and impartial medical examination of Azimjan Askarov, in addition to providing him with all necessary medical care;
4. Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the alleged torture and ill-treatment of Azimjan Askarov whilst in detention, as well as into the physical attacks and harassment of his lawyer and relatives, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards.
Link here to see Front Line Appeal and see photo of Azimjan Askarov showing evidence of beating
For further information please contact:
Jim Loughran Head of Communications Front Line Tel +353 1 212 37 50 Email firstname.lastname@example.org