Kyrgyzstan: Supreme Court to Review Askarov Case on July 11
Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court says it will hold a hearing into the case of jailed rights activist Azimjan Askarov on July 11, possibly setting the stage for a climbdown in a saga that has drawn broad international condemnation.
The court said in statement on June 22 that the fresh review comes at the request of Askarov’s lawyers, who have cited newly discovered evidence.
The news comes amid growing fears about Askarov’s health. In September 2010, Askarov, who is an ethnic Uzbek, 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 of that year. Askarov denies all charges.
In April, the UN Human Rights Committee pressed Kyrgyzstan to release Askarov, piling more pressure onto a government that has reacted intemperately to criticism from multiple quarters.
Askarov’s flawed trial was followed up by a catalog of physical abuse in prison, according to international activists.
In 2012, the Swiss-based International Commission of Jurists wrote in a report that Askarov has “described multiple occasions of severe and continuous beatings, including with a gun, punches and kicks, threat of death, threat to relatives, insults, and lack of basic necessities such as toilet facilities.”
Kyrgyz and international human rights organizations have repeatedly claimed Askarov was targeted for prosecution because of his history of human rights activism, which highlighted the violations and abuses of police officers.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s complaint created grounds for Askarov to solicit 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.
“In accordance with criminal procedure legislation, the decision by the UN Human Rights Committee is basis for renewed consideration of the criminal case under new circumstances,” Supreme Court chief justice Ainash Tokbayeva told reporters following the UN complaint in late April.
Before now, the Kyrgyz government has been reluctant to revise Askarov’s case and has insisted the decision of the court was beyond appeal.
Askarov’s fate has become object of some rambunctious diplomacy.
In July 2015, Kyrgyzstan tore up a cornerstone treaty with the United States following a decision by the State Department to award the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award.
Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry described the act as a deliberate “act against the strengthening of inter-ethnic peace and harmony.”
“In Kyrgyzstan, Askarov is considered a party to a murder and one of the active participants of ethnic clashes in the south of the country in June 2010. Moreover, as a result of improper actions by some civil society activists and representatives of foreign countries, his figure came to symbolize the divisions and not the unity among the people of Kyrgyzstan”, the Foreign Ministry said.