The highest court in Kyrgyzstan has set an unusual precedent by ruling to allow a new legal appeal for a rights activist whose imprisonment has sown dangerous ethnic, diplomatic and political tensions.
Advocacy groups have expressed dismay, however, that the ruling falls far short of what the international community and rights activists have long been demanding — Azimjan Askarov’s immediate release.
Tempers in the gallery of the Supreme Court were at boiling point from the very start of the July 12 hearing into Askarov’s case. Although the decision to order a lower court to review the life sentence passed down in 2010 opened a slight window of hope for Askarov, the ailing 65-year-old will remain in prison pending fresh legal procedures, in defiance of clear demands from the UN Human Rights Committee.
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Anna Lelik is a Bishkek-based reporter.