Any hope that authorities in Kyrgyzstan might show leniency toward jailed activist Azimjan Askarov was squashed on January 24, when a court reinstated his life sentence. Rights advocates expressed dismay at the verdict, calling it a violation of Kyrgyzstan’s international commitments.
Standing in the defendant’s cage in a hall in the Chui regional court, Askarov vowed that he would mount an open-ended hunger strike.
Askarov, a 66-year old ethnic Uzbek, was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2010 on charges of inciting a crowd to murder a police officer during inter-communal riots in the southern Kyrgyzstan town of Bazar-Korgon in June that year. Askarov’s supporters, who include several Western governments and rights groups, have long argued the case against the activist was flimsy, and his original trial was marred by procedural violations.
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Anna Lelik is a Bishkek-based reporter.