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Azimjan Askarov sentenced to life imprisonment

Status: 
Imprisoned
About the situation

On 11 March 2019, Khadicha Askarova, the wife of Azimjan Askarov, who is serving a life sentence on trumped up charges, was notified of an order allowing for the seizing of the human rights defender’s house. The family of Azimjan Askarov live in the house.

On 13 March 2019, Azimjan Askarov was transferred from detention center № 1 in Bishkek, the capital, to Correctional Facility № 19 in Dzhangi Jer, Kyrgyzstan. This facility houses convicts who have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

On 24 January 2017, the Chui regional court upheld the life sentence for human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. The decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court. At the end of the court hearing, Azimjan Askarov said he will start a hunger strike.

On 4 October 2016, the trial of imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov started at the Chui regional court. At a previous hearing, on 12 July 2016, the Supreme Court in Bishkek had decided to send his case to the regional court for additional review. The human rights defender, who has been sentenced to life in prison in 2010, will remain in detention pending his new trial.

On 21 April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Kyrgyz authorities had arbitrarily detained, tortured, held in “inhumane” conditions, and “prevented [Askarov] from adequately preparing his trial defence.” In a statement, the UN experts called on Kyrgyzstan to immediately release him and quash his life sentence.

About Azimjan Askarov

Azimjan AskarovAzimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender in Kyrgyzstan and founder of the human rights organization Vozdukh (Air). He has worked to investigate and report cases of police abuse and poor prison conditions, and as a result was targeted by the authorities. On 15 September 2010, Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on trumped up charges of organising mass riots and involvement in the killing of a policeman. He was arrested on 16 June 2010 following violent clashes the same month between ethnic Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks in south Kyrgyzstan, in which more than 400 people were killed. Azimjan Askarov was tortured in pre-trial detention facilities. However, the General Prosecutor's Office refused to investigate the allegations of torture and various courts, including the Supreme Court, upheld the General Prosecutor's refusal to investigate.

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13 May 2019
Azimjan Askarov’s house under threat of seizure

On 11 March 2019, Khadicha Askarova, the wife of Azimjan Askarov, who is serving a life sentence on trumped up charges, was notified of an order allowing for the seizing of the human rights defender’s house. The family of Azimjan Askarov live in the house.

Azimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender in Kyrgyzstan and founder of the human rights organisation Vozdukh (Air). Before his arrest, he had investigated and reported cases of police abuse and poor prison conditions. On 15 September 2010, Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on trumped up charges of organising mass riots, instigating ethnic hatred and being involved in the murder of a policeman. The case against him was upheld despite the absence of credible evidence and a failure to investigate serious allegations of ill-treatment and torture as well as a physical attack against the human rights defender's lawyer.

On 11 March 2019, Khadicha Askarova received a notice from the Oktyabrsky District Department of Service of Court Bailiffs in Bishkek, dated on 28 February 2019, stating that the house that she is currently living in would be seized. The decision was issued in connection with the moral damage compensation of 175,000 KGS (around 2,230 EUR), awarded by the Jalal-Abad Regional Court to the family of a policeman who was allegedly killed by Azimjan Askarov on 21 February 2012, in the context of an ethnic conflict. The proceedings on the house seizure began at the request of the wife of the killed policeman, after Khadicha Askarova had tried to transfer the ownership of the house from her imprisoned husband to herself. As a retiree with very low income, the human rights defender’s wife has neither the means nor legal obligation to pay the compensation for her husband.

This is not the first time that the law enforcement authorities have attempted to confiscate the property of the human rights defender. After the court’s decision concerning the compensation in 2012, the house of the human rights defender was ordered to be seized, leaving his family under a constant threat of eviction. On 25 May 2016, approximately twenty people, including court bailiffs and representatives of the State Property Fund of Kyrgyzstan, arrived at Azimjan Askarov's house for the “purpose of confiscation of the property into the possession of the State”. On 5 September 2017, following an appeal, the Bazar-Korgon District Court lifted the order to seize the property due to mistakes in the confiscation procedures.

The family of Azimjan Askarov has also been subjected to other forms of harassment in the past. When the human rights defender was arrested in 2012, police officers entered his house and took food from the fridge and clothes from wardrobes.

The decision to confiscate the human rights defender's property is contrary to the prohibition on seizing the house of a convicted person if their family lives there on a permanent basis, provided in the Penal Enforcement Code of Kyrgyzstan. Azimjan Askarov's house is the only residence of his wife and children, and therefore according to Kyrgyz law, cannot be taken away from them, even on a court's order.

Front Line Defenders condemns the decision to seize the house of Azimjan Askarov as it believes that it is a result of the criminal charges brought against the human rights defender in reprisal for his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights. The threat of confiscation is causing the human rights defender and his family serious distress, and adds a further level of punishment to Azimjan Askarov, in addition to his life imprisonment.

 

21 March 2019
Azimjan Askarov transferred to facility for convicts with life sentences

On 13 March 2019, Azimjan Askarov was transferred from detention center № 1 in Bishkek, the capital, to Correctional Facility № 19 in Dzhangi Jer, Kyrgyzstan. This facility houses convicts who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The human rights defender was not informed about the transfer, nor was his family.

It is believed that the transfer may indicate that the human rights defender’s life sentence has formally started. Azimjan Askarov has been held in detention since 15 June 2010, during which time he has been subjected to ill-treatment.

24 January 2017
Azimjan Askarov's sentence upheld

On 24 January 2017, the Chui regional court upheld the life sentence for human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. The decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court. At the end of the court hearing, Azimjan Askarov declared he will start a hunger strike.

10 January 2017
Azimjan Askarov's trial is postponed until 17 January

On 10 January 2017, the Chui regional court postponed the verdict in the case of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov until 17 January.

3 October 2016
Azimjan Askarov's trial restarts on 4 October

On 4 October 2016, the trial of imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov started at the Chui regional court. At a previous hearing, on 12 July 2016, the Supreme Court in Bishkek had decided to send his case to the regional court for additional review. The human rights defender, who has been sentenced to life in prison in 2010, will remain in detention pending his new trial.

At the hearing, Askarov's lawyer lodged two requests: 1) to release the human rights defender, in accordance with the statement published by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in April 2016; 2) to open a new and fair investigation into his case. The judge dismissed both requests.

The new trial against Askarov has been marred with irregularities. Many important witnesses were not in court and the evidence provided by the witnesses who attended the hearing is vague and confused. A Front Line Defenders representative, who went to observe the trail, was initially denied entrance, but was eventually allowed to enter in the room. The next hearings are scheduled for 11, 18 and 25 October.

In September 2010, Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on trumped up charges of organising mass riots, instigating ethnic hatred and being involved in the murder of a policeman. He was arrested on 16 June 2010, following violent clashes between ethnic Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks in south Kyrgyzstan, in which more than 400 people were killed.

According to the UNHRC statement, Askarov was arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured, mistreated, and unable to get proper treatment for serious medical conditions. Authorities also failed to carry out an immediate, effective and impartial investigation into Askarov’s allegations of torture.

Read also: UN Human Rights Committee urges Kyrgyzstan to release jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction

12 July 2016
HRDs Defense Team Attacked at Hearing

At an appeals hearing on 12 July 2016, the Supreme Court in Bishkek decided to send the case of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov to the Chui regional court of appeal for new hearing.

Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life in prison in 2010. 21 April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Kyrgyz authorities had arbitrarily detained, tortured, held in “inhumane” conditions, and “prevented [Askarov] from adequately preparing his trial defence.” In a statement, the UN experts called on Kyrgyzstan to immediately release him and quash his life sentence.

For two days in Bishkek, Askarov has been prevented from attending his trial. On the second day, international observers reported that families of the victims of the policemen killed in 2010 verbally and physically attacked the defense team with no intervention from the police present.

11 July 2016
Azimjan Askarov Prevented from Attending Court

The appeals hearing for human rights defender Azimjan Askarov began Monday morning, 11 July 2016, at the Supreme Court in Bishkek. Numerous international organisations, including Front Line Defenders, attended to observe the trial, as well as representatives from the United States and German embassies in Bishkek. The human rights defender was not permitted to be present in the court room.

Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life in prison in 2010. 21 April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Kyrgyz authorities had arbitrarily detained, tortured, held in “inhumane” conditions, and “prevented [Askarov] from adequately preparing his trial defence.” In a statement, the UN experts called on Kyrgyzstan to immediately release him and quash his life sentence.

At the Supreme Court on 11 July, Askarov's lawyers asked on numerous occassions for permission for Askarov to attend. The presiding judge denied the requests, saying that before the end of the day he would consider the request for Askarov to attend on Tuesday, 12 July, for the second day of the hearing.

Local sources believe that denying Askarov permission to attend was an attempt to treat the hearing simply as a meeting to discuss the recent UN decision, rather than an actual appeal of his life sentence. Askarov's lawyer stated that the UN decision is not a matter of discussion or debate, and that the Kyrgyz government now has a responsibility to implement the decision. The human rights defender's lawyer said that Askarov's rights had been violated, that there was no need to open a new investigation in the alleged crimes, and that he must be freed unconditionally and have his charges dropped.

At approximately 2pm in Bishkek, the trial was adjourned until Tuesday, 12 July. The lawyer's request that Askarov himself be permitted to attend on Tuesday was neither heard or ruled on.

Denying Askarov access to the court room may constitute a violation of his right to a fair trial, a right protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political RIghts, to which Kyrgisztan has been a party since 1994.

7 July 2016
Human rights defender with life sentence to appear in Kyrgyzstan appeals court 11 July

Imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov is due to appear on court on Monday, 11 July 2016, for an appeals hearing. United Nations human rights bodies, the European Union External Action, and international human rights groups have called for the release of the human rights defender and the repeal of his life sentence.

Azimjan Askarov spent more than a decade investigating and reporting cases of police abuse and poor prison conditions. Before his arrest, he founded and served as director of the organisation Vozdukh ("Air"), which monitors police brutality in Kyrgystan.

Press Release: Human rights defender with life sentence to appear in Kyrgyzstan appeals court 11 July

1 June 2016
Harassment of the family of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov

On 25 May 2016, approximately twenty people, including persons in military uniform, court bailiffs and representatives of the State Property Fund of Kyrgyzstan (SPFK), called to the house of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov in Bazar-Korgon village, Zhalal-Abad region, in order to prepare official documents for confiscation of the property by the State.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

On 25 May 2016, approximately twenty people, including court bailiffs and representatives of the SPFK, arrived at Azimjan Askarov's house for the “purpose of confiscation of the property into the possession of the State”, as they explained to the human rights defender's wife who was present at the time. The people inspected the property, took an inventory and photographs, and then left. Following this, when Azimjan Askarov's legal counsel contacted representatives of the Department of the SPFK in Bazar-Korgon village and the city of Zhalal-Abad regarding the incident, neither was able to provide an official order permitting the confiscation of the human rights defender's property. Instead, the counsel was directed to the SPFK in Bishkek to receive this information.    Subsequently the legal counsel received an explanatory note from the SPFK, explaining that the order to confiscate Azimjan Askarov's house was based on a letter from the Office of Court Bailiffs of Bazar-Korgon district dated 3 March 2016. The Office informed the SPFK that the property of the human rights defender had to be transferred to the State in compliance with an earlier decision of the Bazar-Korgon district Court.

This is not the first attempt by the Kyrgyz government to confiscate Azimjan Askarov's house. There is a pending appeal against the decision of one of the court bailiffs in relation to the  confiscation of the property. The decision to confiscate the human rights defender's home was adopted despite a clear prohibition, provided in the Penal Enforcement Code of Kyrgyzstan, to confiscate the house of a convicted person if his or her family lives there on a permanent basis. Azimjan Askarov's house, where his wife and children live, is their only residence and therefore according to Kyrgyz law, cannot be taken away from them, even on a court's order. In view of this, Azimjan Askarov's legal counsel is of the opinion that the intention of the SPFK was not to confiscate the property, but rather to exert pressure on the human rights defender and his family.    

Front Line Defenders condemns the harassment of the Azimjan Askarov's family, which it believes is directly linked to his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights in Kyrgyzstan. 

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to:

1. Immediately cease all further harassment, and ensure protection, of Azimjan Askarov's family, as Front Line Defenders believes that they have been targeted solely as a result of Azimjan Askarov's legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights in Kyrgyzstan;

2. Implement recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee from 21 April 2016 by releasing jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov and quashing his conviction, as it is widely believed that he has been sentenced solely on account of his peaceful and legitimate human rights work in Kyrgyzstan;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

25 April 2016
Front Line Defenders calls for the release of jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov

On 25 April 2016, Front Line Defenders called for the release of jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, currently serving life imprisonment in Kyrgyzstan.

Read also: UN Human Rights Committee urges Kyrgyzstan to release jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction

On 21 April, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on the Kyrgiz government to free the human rights defender on the basis that he was subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, and violations of his right to a fair trial.

Irish politician and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Eamon Gilmore, who visited Azimjan Askarov in prison in 2014, today reiterated his call on the government of Kyrgyzstan to release him on humanitarian grounds. Front Line Defenders welcomes the statement by the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan - issued on 25 April - that it is willing to consider a review of the Askarov case.

Azimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender in Kyrgyzstan and founder of the human rights organisation Vozdukh. Front Line Defenders Executive Director Mary Lawlor in Dublin said:

“Azimjan worked tirelessly to document reports of police brutality and poor conditions in detention. His work led to several successful investigations following which he was the target of persistent harassment and intimidation.” - Mary Lawlor

When inter-ethnic violence broke out in 2010, leading to an estimated 400 deaths, Azimjan documented the violence and human rights abuses. As a result, he was himself arrested and charged with having orchestrated ethnic hatred and of having taken part in the murder of a policeman.

On 15 September 2010, Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after an unfair trial. The case against him was upheld despite the absence of any credible evidence and a complete failure to investigate serious allegations of torture. During his trial he appeared in court with extensive bruising on his face as a result of beatings in custody. In subsequent appeals even the Human Rights Ombudsman acknowledged that the case against Askarov was politically motivated.

In its statement the United Nations Human Rights Committee said “the Kyrgyz authorities prevented Askarov from adequately preparing his trial defence, as the human rights defender and his lawyer were not allowed to meet in private. It also reports that relatives of the deceased police officer attacked his lawyer, creating “a general sense of fear, incompatible with the proper execution of the defence lawyer’s functions”. Additionally, the lawyer could not attend the first date of the trial, on 2 September 2010, because the court did not notify him on time.

The UNHCR found that the Kyrgyz government violated several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Kyrgyzstan ratified in 1994. By ratifying the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR Kyrgyzstan recognised the competence of the Committee to make findings on whether there has been a violation and to make recommendations.

“Kyrgyzstan’s own constitution requires the government to comply with the ruling of the Human Rights Committee and Front Line Defenders urges the government to do so as a matter of urgency given Azimjan's fragile health”, said Ms Lawlor.

For further information please contact:

Erin Kilbride – Press Officer – erin@frontlinedefenders.org +353-1-212-3750

Jim Loughran – Communications Team – jim@frontlinedefenders.org - 0872316049

10 December 2014
Mr Eamon Gilmore TD meets jailed human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in Kyrgyzstan

On 9 December 2014, on the eve of international human rights day, former Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Eamon Gilmore TD travelled to Kyrgyzstan where he was the key note speaker at an OSCE meeting on the need for the regional protection of human rights defenders in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. During the visit Mr Gilmore visited jailed Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimjan Askarov who is serving a life sentence after an unfair trial during which he was brutally tortured.

Azimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender in Kyrgyzstan and founder of the human rights organization Vozdukh (Air). He has worked to investigate and report cases of police abuse and poor prison conditions, and as a result was targeted by the authorities who charged him with murdering a policeman during clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. The case against him was upheld despite the absence of any credible evidence and a complete failure to investigate serious allegations of torture. During his trial he appeared in court with extensive bruising on his face as a result of beatings in custody. In subsequent appeals even the Human Rights Ombudsman recognised that the case against him was politically motivated.

5 September 2014
Appeal to re-examine case of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov dismissed by Supreme Court

On 3 September 2014, the Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court rejected the appeal of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov to re-open his case. The Supreme Court's verdict upheld the previous ruling of Bishkek City Court on 16 June 2014 when the court rejected the re-examination of his case.

Four years ago, on 15 September 2010, Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of organising mass riots and involvement in the killing of a policeman. Azimjan Askarov, who is 64 years old, remains in a penal colony in Bishkek.

Between December 2012 and February 2013, Azimjan Askarov's lawyers travelled to the village of Bazar-Korgon where inter-ethnic violence took place and found seventeen independent witnesses whose testimonies proved the innocence of Azimjan Askarov. The General Prosecutor's office created an investigative commission on 5 May 2013 to re-examine Azimjan Askarov's case. However, the commission was dissolved by the decision of Deputy General Prosecutor on 5 February 2014, when the Prosecutor's Office stated that there were no grounds for reinvestigation of the human rights defender's conviction. This decision was appealed by Azimjan Askarov's lawyers and, on 30 April 2014, Oktyabrskiy District Court of Bishkek ruled that the investigative commission should continue its work since its dissolution was without legal grounds. However, on 16 June 2014 the Bishkek City Court dismissed the Oktyabrskiy District Court's ruling. Azimjan Askarov's lawyers appealed this decision to the Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court's hearing of the Azimjan Askarov's case on 2 September 2014, a panel of judges agreed to replace a judge who had previously ruled against the human rights defender following a challenge from his lawyers. When the hearing resumed on 3 September 2014, Azimjan Askarov's lawyer was threatened by a man dressed in plain clothes who had asked the lawyer to speak with him outside. Reportedly, the unknown man told the lawyer that he would remember the faces. On the same day, the Supreme Court rejected Azimjan Askarov's appeal.

Azimjan Askarov spent 25 years documenting human rights abuses in Kyrgyzstan. He was arrested on 16 June 2010 following violent clashes the same month between ethnic Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks in south Kyrgyzstan, in which more than 400 people were killed. Azimjan Askarov was tortured in pre-trial detention facilities. However, the General Prosecutor's Office refused to investigate the allegations of torture and various courts, including the Supreme Court, upheld the General Prosecutor's refusal to investigate.

Front Line Defenders is concerned by the Supreme Court's decision to reject the appeal against the decision to dissolve the investigative commission in the case of Azimjan Askarov.

30 April 2012
Executive Director Mary Lawlor visits Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov in Bishkek

Azimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender and director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) based in Bazar Korgon, Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan.

Mr. Askarov was imprisoned after the violent ethnic clashes in South Kyrgyzstan during the summer of 2010. He was condemned to life imprisonment following an unfair trial at which the main pieces of evidence presented against him were confessions obtained as a result of torture and testimonies of policemen involved in the events.

Front Line Defenders believes that the imprisonment, unfair trial and torture of Azimjan Askarov are directly related to his legitimate work in the defence of human rights.

In 2011, after visiting Mr. Askarov in prison, a delegation from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) urged Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to take fair trial violations and indications of torture into account when reviewing the case of Mr. Askarov and other defendants convicted in relation to the June 2010 violence in the south of the country.

“We strongly hope that the Supreme Court, as the country’s top judicial oversight body, takes action to prevent what could amount to a major miscarriage of justice,” said Assia Ivantcheva, the deputy head of ODIHR’s human rights department and head of the delegation.

Azimjan has been the subject of several Front Line Defenders Urgent Appeals and Updates (www.frontlinedefenders.org for further information). In February, Director Mary Lawlor was invited to Kyrgyzstan to speak at an EU-Kyrgyzstan meeting. While there, she took the opportunity to visit Azimjan Askarov to discuss additional ways in which Front Line Defenders might provide further support on his behalf.

“So Azimjan has been sacrificed by a cowardly, morally bankrupt government who refuse to do the right thing and act in accordance with even the most basic international standards.” (Mary Lawlor, Executive Director, Front Line Defenders).

29 March 2012
Detained human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov subjected to a fine following civil case against him

Mr Azimjan Askarov is currently facing a civil suit for moral and financial compensation lodged by the wife and mother of policeman Sulaimanov, who was killed on 15 June 2010 in Bazar Korgon.

Azimjan Askarov was previously convicted for his alleged involvement in the killing of Sulaimanov and in inter-ethnic violence in Bazar Korgon. He was condemned to life imprisonment following criminal proceedings marred by the use of torture and unfair trial procedures.

On 21 February 2012, Jalalabad regional court under the chairmanship of Judge E. Chakanov considered the appeal of the decision of the Bazar Korgon court of the Jalalabad region in relation to a claim for financial and moral compensation for the loss of the main breadwinner of their family, brought by Mrs Chinara Bechelova and Mrs Karamat Sulaimanova, the wife and mother, respectively, of the policemen killed. The court of second instance ordered the payment by Azimjan Askarov of 100,000 som (approximately 1,608 euro) as compensation for moral damage and 25,000 som (approximately 402 euro) as compensation for material damage to Chinara Bechelova, and of 50,000 som (approximately 804 euro) as compensation for moral damage to Karamat Sulaimanova.

Azimjan Askarov's lawyers are currently preparing a petition to bring a supervisory judicial review before the Supreme Court.

Previously, on 2 December 2011, the Bazar Korgon court of the Jalalabbad region considered the claim for financial and moral compensation against Azimjan Askarov and the others who had been convicted in the criminal case relating to the policeman's death. The court ordered Azimjan Askarov and the other convicted persons to pay jointly 500,000 som (approximately 8,034 euro) for moral damage and 178,200 som (approximately 2,863 euro) as compensation for material damage to Chinara Bechelova and 300,000 som (approximately 4,822 euro) as compensation for moral damage to Karamat Sulaimanova under Art. 1027 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Azimjan Askarov's lawyers, who are members of Human Rights Center "Citizens against corruption", filed an appeal on the grounds that there was a breach of Art 201. of the Civil Procedure Code and that Azimjan Askarov maintains his innocence and pleaded not guilty during court proceedings. Art. 201 of the Civil Procedure Code of the Kyrgyz Republic stipulates that the decision of a case concerning compensation for moral damage should contain a description of the nature of the offence which caused the moral damage to the victim, the moral rights of the victim and the intangible assets which have been violated as well as information regarding the victim’s moral and/or physical sufferings. These details were not set out in the court's decision and therefore the requirements of Art. 201 were not complied with.

Front Line Defenders believes that the bringing of the civil case is directly related to the criminal case which was based on a flawed investigation, was in flagrant breach of fair procedures and over the course of which the human rights defender was subjected to ill-treatment while in detention. Azimjan Askarov pleaded not guilty to the charge and continues to demand an impartial investigation of his case. As a result of the unjust conviction against Azimjan Askarov in the criminal case, the bringing of a civil case against him was facilitated.

Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern that the civil case is not based on an impartial investigation and considers that a new and impartial investigation into the case should be opened. Front Line Defenders believes that the criminal conviction of Azimjan Askarov was linked to his legitimate human rights work and in particular his work in documenting human rights violations perpetrated in the Jalalabad region in June 2010 and recalls that during the investigation and trial, he was subjected to torture and his witnesses were unable to testify in the court because of threats received.

20 December 2011
Politics Trump Justice; Human Rights Defender Azimjan Askarov conviction upheld by Supreme Court in spite of torture and grossly unfair trial

Front Line Defenders condemns the announcement on 20 December 2011 that the Kyrgyz Supreme Court has upheld the conviction for murder of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. Reports indicate that the Supreme Court did not seriously address the grossly unfair nature of the original trial and the evidence of torture.

“It seems that the Kyrgyz authorities have decided for political reasons that the original verdict should be upheld,” said Front Line Executive Director Mary Lawlor, “Azimjan Askarov has once again been denied justice and remains in prison because he spoke out for human rights of all persons including the rights of ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.”

Azimjan Askarov is a prominent human rights defender and Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) based in Bazar Korgon, Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan. He was imprisoned after the violent ethnic clashes that took place in the South of Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2010.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment following an unfair trial at which the main pieces of evidence presented against him were confessions obtained as a result of torture and testimonies of policemen involved in the events. He has received strong support from human rights defenders of all backgrounds in Kyrgyzstan but his case has become a political rather than a judicial issue with different political figures playing to a Kyrgyz nationalist audience.

On 15 September 2010, Azimjan Askarov was one of eight defendants of ethnic Uzbek origin found guilty of inciting national hatred and organising mass disorders which resulted in killing a policeman during ethnically charged clashes in the southern Kyrgyz village of Bazar-Korgon in June 2010. Askarov was accused of complicity in the murder. No credible evidence has been presented to link him to the murder. Front Line Defenders observed part of the first instance trial and reported grave violations of the judicial proceedings, including threats made in the courtroom, and of the right to a fair trial.

Grave concerns have been raised both nationally and internationally regarding the fairness of the original trial, the treatment of Azimjan Askarov, and the credibility of the evidence used to convict him. The Kyrgyz Human Rights Ombudsman Mr Tursunbek Akun, who carried out a parallel investigation, said that there was no evidence to link Azimjan Askarov to the crime – and that the charges against him were clearly politically motivated.

During his interrogation in a prison in Jalal-Abad, Azimjan Askarov was subjected to torture. He was also reportedly beaten, along with other defendants after an appeal hearing at Nooken Regional Court on 5 November 2010. Azimjan Askarov's health began to deteriorate as a result. On 12 November 2010, following increased pressure from the international community, Azimjan Askarov was transferred to a penitentiary institution in Bishkek where he received medical attention. Representatives of Front Line Defenders met him at the penitentiary in Bishkek where he gave testimony about the torture he had endured but also stressed that some prison officials had tried to help him.

After visiting prominent human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in prison on 16 December 2011 a delegation from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) urged Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to take fair trial violations and indications of torture into account when reviewing the case of Askarov and other defendants convicted in relation to the June 2010 violence in the south of the country.

“We strongly hope that the Supreme Court, as the country’s top judicial oversight body, takes action to prevent what could amount to a major miscarriage of justice,” said Assia Ivantcheva, the deputy head of ODIHR’s human rights department and head of the delegation. Sadly this has not happened.

Earlier in December, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, visited Askarov in prison and expressed concern about the denial of justice in his case. As a participating State of the OSCE, Kyrgyzstan is bound by international fair trial standards as enshrined in OSCE commitments and is obliged to take effective administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent and punish torture and ill-treatment.

Front Line Defenders has called on the Irish Government which will take on the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2012 to take up Azimjan Askarov's case.

2 November 2010
Human rights defender Azimjan Askarov continues appeal against life sentence after unfair trial

Imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov today (03 November) continues his appeal against a life sentence imposed after an unfair trial marked by threats, intimidation and denial of due process.

Front Line is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, recently sentenced to life imprisonment after a trial in which the defendant, witnesses and lawyers for the defence were routinely threatened and intimidated, including in the courtroom itself.

Azimjan Askarov has been convicted of participating in the murder of a policeman during the recent inter-ethnic violence, despite the fact that no credible evidence has been presented against him and that the Ombudsman has stated that after carrying out an independent investigation into the case he could find no evidence to link Azimjan Askarov to the crime

During the initial 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”.

Four of the defendants in the original hearing, including Azimjan Askarov, bore visible traces on their faces of recent beatings, which had not been visible at the previous hearing.

Azimjan Askarov had a bruised eye. Nurbek Toktakunov requested that the hearing be deferred to allow him more time to prepare an adequate defence, and petitioned for his client to undergo a thorough medical exam. It was denied.

Later, Azimjan Askarov was questioned by the judge and stated that no one had harmed him, and that the bruise had been caused while he was being brought to the courtroom with other defendants on a previous occasion during which he lost his shoe and bumped his head into the back of the other defendant. He refused a medical exam.

In addition, concerns are expressed regarding 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.

Members of the audience directed questions from the floor to the defendants during the hearing without being authorised by the Judge to do so. In addition, the accused did not receive a full explanation of their rights and responsibilities.

Azimjan Askarov's relatives and supporters were reportedly intimidated and threatened against attending the hearing. It has been reported that at a previous hearing on 2 September, his relatives were not allowed to enter the courtroom, being pushed out by relatives of the deceased policeman who threatened them not to attempt to attend his trial again.

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 given new and credible reports of the use of torture, including asphyxiation.

In particular, allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Aminjan 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.

Furthermore, Front Line is gravely concerned regarding violations of due process and the right to a fair and impartial trial, which were observed while attending the hearing.

In particular, Front Line draws attention to Article 26 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which provides that "everyone is presumed innocent of committing a crime until his guilt is proved in accordance with law and established by a legally binding court decision", and to Article 31 of the Constitution, which prohibits “advocacy of national, ethnic, racial or religious hatred, gender and other social superiority, calling to discrimination, hostility or violence".

Front Line is concerned regarding various breaches of fair trial provisions outlined in Article 18 of the Krygyz Code of Criminal Procedure, regarding "Implementation of the proceedings on the basis of competition and equality of the parties".

Finally, Front Line reminds the Kyrgyz authorities of the criminalisation of "Actions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious hatred, humiliation of national dignity, and propaganda of exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the grounds of their religion, nationality or race, if committed publicly or with the use of mass media," under Article 299 of the Penal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.

13 September 2010
Unfair trial and fear of torture of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov

Front Line was represented by an observer at the trial hearing of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov 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. The defendant, Azimjan Askarov, showed visible signs of having been beaten.

Azimjan Askarov, who is of Uzbek ethnic origin, is accused of complicity in the murder of a policeman during the ethnic violence which took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 but no credible evidence has yet been presented to link him to the murder.

A verdict is expected in the trial on 15 September. The prosecutor in the case has requested that the court impose a life sentence on Azimjan Askarov. Front Line has previously issued several urgent appeals in relation to harassment, intimidation and violent attacks against Azimjan Askarov and his supporters, as well as the suspected torture of Azimjan Askarov in detention.

On 6 September posters were placed on the doors of the courthouse in Nooken demanding the execution of Azimjan Askarov, along with seven other individuals of Uzbek ethnicity who are also accused of involvement in the murder of the policeman. These posters were largely of an anti-Uzbek, racist nature. A 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. When the eight defendants entered the courtroom, the family of the deceased policeman attempted to violently attack them, shouting anti-Uzbek statements, and demanding the execution of the accused. 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”.

Four of the defendants, including Azimjan Askarov, bore visible traces on their faces of recent beatings, which had not been visible at the previous hearing. Azimjan Askarov had a bruised eye. Nurbek Toktakunov requested that the hearing be deferred to allow him more time to prepare an adequate defence, and petitioned for his client to undergo a thorough medical exam. It was denied. Later, Azimjan Askarov was questioned by the judge and stated that no one had harmed him, and that the bruise had been caused while he was being brought to the courtroom with other defendants on a previous occasion during which he lost his shoe and bumped his head into the back of the other defendant. He refused a medical exam. Attached is a photograph of Azimjan Askarov, taken by his lawyer at the trial, which shows his injuries.

In addition, concerns are expressed regarding 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. Members of the audience directed questions from the floor to the defendants during the hearing without being authorised by the Judge to do so. In addition, the accused did not receive a full explanation of their rights and responsibilities.

Azimjan Askarov's relatives and supporters were reportedly intimidated and threatened against attending the hearing. It has been reported that at a previous hearing on 2 September, his relatives were not allowed to enter the courtroom, being pushed out by relatives of the deceased policeman who threatened them not to attempt to attend his trial again.

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 Aminjan 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.

Furthermore, Front Line is gravely concerned regarding violations of due process and the right to a fair and impartial trial, which were observed while attending the hearing. In particular, Front Line draws attention to Article 26 of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, which provides that "everyone is presumed innocent of committing a crime until his guilt is proved in accordance with law and established by a legally binding court decision", and to Article 31 of the Constitution, which prohibits “advocacy of national, ethnic, racial or religious hatred, gender and other social superiority, calling to discrimination, hostility or violence". Front Line is concerned regarding various breaches of fair trial provisions outlined in Article 18 of the Krygyz Code of Criminal Procedure, regarding "Implementation of the proceedings on the basis of competition and equality of the parties".

Finally, Front Line reminds the Kyrgyz authorities of the criminalisation of "Actions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious hatred, humiliation of national dignity, and propaganda of exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the grounds of their religion, nationality or race, if committed publicly or with the use of mass media," under Article 299 of the Penal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.

1 September 2010
Upcoming trial of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov

The trial of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov has been scheduled to take place on 2 September 2010 in Nooken regional court, close to Bazar Korgon in the Jalalabad region of south Kyrgyzstan. The presiding judge will reportedly come from Bazar Korgon.

Azimjan Askarov has been charged with various offences under the Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan, including Art. 28, 30-227 (”attempting to participate in hostage taking”), Art. 241 (”illegal acquisition and storage of ammunition”), Art. 299-2 (“acquisition and storage of extremist information”) , Article 299 (“initiation of national, race, religious hatred, insult of national dignity, propaganda of supremacy or deficiency of citizens on the basis of their religious, national or race background”), Art. 233 (“mass riots”), Art. 30-97 (“co-participation in murder”), and Art. 30-340, (“co-participation in murder of police officers”).

Azimjan Askarov's charges were initiated in relation to the events of 13 June 2010. During violence between ethnic Kyrgyzs and Uzbeks in Bazar Korgon, a policeman from Bazar Korgon Department of Internal Affairs, Mr M. Sulaymanov, was killed while seven other policemen were injured. Azimjan Askarov was arrested in connection to the killing on 15 June and has been held since then in Jalalabad police station, the same station where the deceased policeman formerly worked.

Azimjan Askarov's lawyer, Mr Nurbek Toktakunov, filed a petition for the trial to be postponed and transfered fron Bazar Korgon to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. Following previous violent attacks on Nurbek Toktakunov and relatives of Azimjan Askarov, there are serious grounds to believe that the human rights defender will not recieve a fair trial if the hearing takes place in Bazar Korgon. In two separate incidents, Nurbek Toktakunov and Azimjan Askarov's sister in law were assaulted within Jalalabad police station by mobs which included relatives of the deceased policeman, with the complicity of local police who stood by during the attacks.

Furthermore, there have been reliable reports that Azimjan Askarov was beaten and tortured during interrogation following his arrest. On 26 July 2010, Jalalabad City Court upheld a decision by the General Prosecutor's Office of Jalalabad not to investigate claims that Azimjan Askarov was tortured or ill-treated. The General Prosecutor's office claims that bruises to Azimjan Askarov's body which were photographed by Nurbek Toktakunov were caused by his cellmate, that the human rights defender has denied that he was ill-treated and that he does not want the cellmate to be investigated for assault. In addition Azimjan Askarov has reportedly been prevented from meeting Nurbek Toktakunov in private to work on the case.

Front Line reiterates its previous calls for the immediate transfer of Azimjan Askarov to a more secure place of detention in Bishkek, failing his immediate and unconditional release from detention. Front Line believes that the detention and prosecution of Azimjan Askarov are directly linked to his peaceful activities in the defense of human rights, and views this case as illustrative of the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in the context of the ethnic violence taking place in south Kyrgyzstan.

9 August 2010
Mr Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov, attacked in police station

On 2 August 2010, lawyer Mr Nurbek Toktakunov was attacked while visiting his client, imprisoned human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov in Jalalabad regional police station.

Azimjan Askarov is currently being held in the Bazar Korgon pretrial detention facility following his arrest on 15 June 2010. He has been charged with organising riots during violence in South Kyrgyzstan in June, in which a police officer was killed. Azimjan Askarov is Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) in Bazar Korgon. Front Line has previously issued an appeal regarding his case on 20 June 2010.

Nurbek Toktakunov had just begun a meeting with Azimjan Askarov in Jalalabad police station on 2 August 2010 when policemen interrupted, ending the meeting and taking the human rights defender away. They explained that this was for security reasons, stating that the relatives of a Mr Sulaymanov, who was killed during riots between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs, were going to come to the police station. At that moment, an unknown young man saw the lawyer through the window and asked a policeman why he had told him that Nurbek Toktakunov was not present at the police station. The young man threatened to go inside and to punish Nurbek Toktakunov for defending an Uzbek.

The young man then entered the police station without impediment, and together with other unknown men and women circled the lawyer, took his suitcase and threatened him with reprisal if he did not agree to withdraw from Azimjan Askarov's case. At that moment the policemen present disappeared. The attack against Nurbek Toktakunov eventually stopped when representatives of the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Jalalabad intervened; only afterwards did police intervene. Nurbek Toktakunov's shirt was torn during the attack. This incident took place close to the Bazar Korgon pretrial detention facility, where Azimjan Askarov is being held. Security at the detention centre is low, and it is believed that the attackers could easily have entered and gained access to Azimjan Askarov.

This attack forms part of an ongoing trend of harassment and attacks against Azimjan Askarov, his family and his supporters. On 23 June 2010 Nurbek Toktakunov was threatened near the same police station by an aggressive crowd in relation to his role as defence attorney for Azimjan Askarov. On 27 July 2010, Front Line issued an urgent appeal regarding the assault and beating of Ms Turdihon Askarova, Azimjan Askarov's sister-in-law, by a group of Kyrgyz women while she attempted to deliver a food parcel to the human rights defender at the police station. Law enforcement representatives present at the scene did not intervene. It has been reported that relatives of the police officer who was killed – who formerly worked at Bazar Korgon police station - were present in the groups of people involved in the attacks against both Nurbek Toktakunov and Turdihon Askarova.

On 26 July 2010, Jalalabad City Court upheld 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. The General Prosecutor's office claims that bruises to Azimjan Askarov's body which were photographed by Nurbek Toktakunov were caused by his cellmate, that the human rights defender has denied that he was ill-treated and that he does not want the cellmate to be investigated for assault. In addition Azimjan Askarov has reportedly been prevented from meeting Nurbek Toktakunov in private to work on the case.

In the context of the current climate of violence, revenge and popular justice in Bazar Korgon, the repeated attacks by members of the public and the non-assistance by law enforcement officials reinforce Front Line's fears for the physical and psychological security of Azimjan Askarov, his lawyer and members of his family.

Front Line reiterates its serious concern regarding the charges pending against Azimjan Askarov, and the difficulty in obtaining an objective and impartial investigation and fair legal process. Front Line continues to believe that the detention of, and legal charges against, Azimjan Askarov are a direct result of his legitimate human rights work.

27 July 2010
Ms Turdihon Askarova, sister-in-law of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov, assaulted while visiting him in detention

On 2 August 2010, lawyer Mr Nurbek Toktakunov was attacked while visiting his client, imprisoned human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov in Jalalabad regional police station. Azimjan Askarov is currently being held in the Bazar Korgon pretrial detention facility following his arrest on 15 June 2010. He has been charged with organising riots during violence in South Kyrgyzstan in June, in which a police officer was killed.

Nurbek Toktakunov had just begun a meeting with Azimjan Askarov in Jalalabad police station on 2 August 2010 when policemen interrupted, ending the meeting and taking the human rights defender away. They explained that this was for security reasons, stating that the relatives of a Mr Sulaymanov, who was killed during riots between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs, were going to come to the police station. At that moment, an unknown young man saw the lawyer through the window and asked a policeman why he had told him that Nurbek Toktakunov was not present at the police station. The young man threatened to go inside and to punish Nurbek Toktakunov for defending an Uzbek.

The young man then entered the police station without impediment, and together with other unknown men and women circled the lawyer, took his suitcase and threatened him with reprisal if he did not agree to withdraw from Azimjan Askarov's case. At that moment the policemen present disappeared. The attack against Nurbek Toktakunov eventually stopped when representatives of the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Jalalabad intervened; only afterwards did police intervene. Nurbek Toktakunov's shirt was torn during the attack. This incident took place close to the Bazar Korgon pretrial detention facility, where Azimjan Askarov is being held. Security at the detention centre is low, and it is believed that the attackers could easily have entered and gained access to Azimjan Askarov.

This attack forms part of an ongoing trend of harassment and attacks against Azimjan Askarov, his family and his supporters. On 23 June 2010 Nurbek Toktakunov was threatened near the same police station by an aggressive crowd in relation to his role as defence attorney for Azimjan Askarov. On 27 July 2010, Front Line issued an urgent appeal regarding the assault and beating of Ms Turdihon Askarova, Azimjan Askarov's sister-in-law, by a group of Kyrgyz women while she attempted to deliver a food parcel to the human rights defender at the police station. Law enforcement representatives present at the scene did not intervene. It has been reported that relatives of the police officer who was killed – who formerly worked at Bazar Korgon police station - were present in the groups of people involved in the attacks against both Nurbek Toktakunov and Turdihon Askarova.

On 26 July 2010, Jalalabad City Court upheld 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. The General Prosecutor's office claims that bruises to Azimjan Askarov's body which were photographed by Nurbek Toktakunov were caused by his cellmate, that the human rights defender has denied that he was ill-treated and that he does not want the cellmate to be investigated for assault. In addition Azimjan Askarov has reportedly been prevented from meeting Nurbek Toktakunov in private to work on the case.

In the context of the current climate of violence, revenge and popular justice in Bazar Korgon, the repeated attacks by members of the public and the non-assistance by law enforcement officials reinforce Front Line's fears for the physical and psychological security of Azimjan Askarov, his lawyer and members of his family.

Front Line reiterates its serious concern regarding the charges pending against Azimjan Askarov, and the difficulty in obtaining an objective and impartial investigation and fair legal process. Front Line continues to believe that the detention of, and legal charges against, Azimjan Askarov are a direct result of his legitimate human rights work.

18 June 2010
Continued detention and alleged ill-treatment of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov

Subsequent to the Front Line Urgent Appeal issued on 16 June 2010, Front Line has received the following new information concerning the arrest and detention of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov: Azimjan Askarov is reportedly being subjected to ill-treatment in detention in Bazar Korgon police station. Azimjan Askarov has not yet been informed of the charges against him and is being detained incommunicado.

According to Front Line's sources, Azimjan Askarov's brother - who was arrested and detained together with Azimjan Askarov - has alleged that Azimjan Askarov was beaten and tortured during the interrogation, and fears for his life.

On the morning of 17 June 2010, unknown masked men broke into the house of Azimjan Askarov and attempted to carry out an illegal search thereof. However, they were prevented from doing so by journalists and other human rights defenders who were present at the time. It is reported that two similar attempts had previously been made. Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman Mr Tursunbek Akun, who has been ordered by interim president Roza Otunbaeva to follow the case closely, gave a press conference on 17 June in which he declared that the detention and accusations against Azimjan Askarov are unfounded. On the same day, numerous human rights organisations sent a letter to the interim government calling for the immediate release of Azimjan Askarov.

Azimjan Askarov was detained by representatives of Bazar Korgon police department on 15 June 2010. He is reportedly suspected of taking part in ethnic hostilities between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Azimjan Askarov had been working on documenting the human rights violations committed in this region. For some days previous to his detention, he had been collecting data about those who had been killed and injured during the recent ethnic conflict.

Front Line believes that the arrest of Mr Azimjan Askarov are linked to his peaceful activities in the defense of human rights in the most difficult and dangerous situation which Kyrgyzstan is currently facing. Front Line fears for the physical and psychological security of Azimjan Askarov in police detention facilities of Bazar Korgon. Front Line reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azimjan Askarov and calls for all charges against him to be dropped.

16 June 2010
Arrest and detention of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov

On the evening of 15 June 2010, human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was detained by representatives of Bazar Korgon police department. He is reportedly suspected of taking part in ethnic hostilities between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Azimjan Askarov had been working on documenting the human rights violations committed in this region: for some days previous to his detention, he had been collecting data about those who had been killed and injured during the recent ethnic conflict. According to Ms Valentina Gritsenko, chairwoman of the NGO Spravedlivost (Justice) based in Jalalabad, Azimjan Askarov had obtained video footage of atrocities which had taken place, and the police were aware of that.

Shortly after the arrest, on 15 June, a group of Kyrgyz human rights defenders published a statement in which they expressed their concern regarding the arrest and stressed that Azimjan Askarov worked peacefully on monitoring of human rights violations committed, and called for an end of the hostilities. It has also been reported that another journalist was detained during the hostilities.

Front Line believes that the arrest and detention of Mr Azimjan Askarov are directly related to his peaceful activities in the defence of human rights during the humanitarian catastrophe which Kyrgyzstan is currently facing. Front Line stresses the essential role played by human rights defenders in conflict resolution and peace making processes. The detention of human rights defenders during this period of extremely violent ethnic conflict thus sends a worrying message to civil society in Kyrgyzstan.