Kyrgyzstan govt. urged by rights group to free ailing rights defender


Azimjon Askarov, who was arbitrarily arrested, tortured and convicted after an unfair trial and jailed for life, should be granted his freedom when he plead his case before Kyrgyzstan’s highest court this week, Human Rights Watch commented.

After nearly 10 years in prison, Askarov, an ailing human rights defender, have exhausted all legal avenues and has no further options for appeal.

A Kyrgyz court in September 2010 had found Askarov guilty of participating in mass disturbances, inciting ethnic hatred, and abetting the murder of a police officer.

But the United Nations Human Rights Committee – the independent expert body that adjudicates complaints regarding violations of individual’s civil and political rights – found that in 2016, Askarov was arbitrarily detained, denied a fair trial, and tortured, and ruled he should be released immediately and his conviction quashed.

Askarov turns 69 this month. There would be no better way for him to celebrate his birthday than walking out of prison a free man, Human Rights Watch said.

The international rights body said that there are medical and humanitarian grounds for Askarov’s release too.

Human Rights Watch said that Askarov’s health has deteriorated significantly during his imprisonment. He suffers from cardiac and respiratory conditions and has not received appropriate medical attention in prison.

More worryingly, during this COVID-19 pandemic, Askarov is a member of not one, but two high-risk populations. The coronavirus disproportionately affects older people and individuals with underlying illnesses, explained the rights group.

Also poor access to sanitation and health care in prison and proximity to other inmates means Covid-19 can rapidly spread among people in detention.

This coming June, Askarov will have already served 10 years in prison, despite a deeply flawed trial and credible allegations of torture which were never investigated, said Human Rights Watch.

And although Askarov will never get that time back, nothing justifies his continued detention, the rights group said in conclusion. (Source: HRW)