The Supreme Court in Kyrgyzstan reversed jailed activist Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence on July 12 and ordered a retrial.
The verdict marks a major climbdown in a case that has seen direct involvement from President Almazbek Atambayev, who has described Askarov as a murderer.
The courtroom descended into chaos as the verdict was issued, with relatives of Askarov’s alleged victims launching obscenity-laden verbal assaults against defense lawyers and rights activists present.
Supreme Court chief justice Kakchekei Esenkanov ordered that the retrial take place in the northern Chui region, where Askarov is being imprisoned.
In September 2010, Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment for what Kyrgyz authorities say was his role in inciting the mob killing of a police officer amid ethnic unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan in June that year. Askarov denies all charges. His supporters say he was singled out for arrest and prosecution because of his advocacy work highlighting police abuse.
The UN Human Rights Committee issued a complaint in April demanding Askarov’s immediate release. That appeal laid the ground for Askarov to appeal for reconsideration of a final and non-appealable decision of the Supreme Court under Article 41 of Kyrgyz Constitution and request revision of his case.
Although Askarov’s case is to be reopened, he will remain in custody.