BISHKEK (TCA) — A court in Kyrgyzstan has again upheld the life sentence of imprisoned ethnic Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.
The retrial at the Chui regional court in the country’s north on July 30 ruled that Askarov’s life sentence cannot be altered.
The hearing was held due to the mitigation of many articles of the country’s Criminal Code that came into force on January 1.
The 68-year-old was convicted following deadly interethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 when more than 450 people, mainly Uzbeks, were killed and tens of thousands more were displaced.
He was sentenced to life in prison after a court found him guilty of organizing the clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz and involvement in the murder of a police officer during the violence.
Askarov, who has insisted that his case is politically motivated, was not present at the July 30 hearing and his lawyer, Valeryan Vakhitov, asked the judge to release his client.
Prosecutors countered that as someone sentenced to life in prison, Askarov could not be released because of the severity of his crime.
Rights groups, including the UN Human Rights Committee, have urged Kyrgyzstan to release Askarov, saying that he had been arbitrarily detained, tortured, and denied his right to a fair trial.
Representatives of the British, German, and Swiss embassies, as well as Human Rights Watch and the UNHRC, were present at the July 30 court hearing.
In July 2016, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court voided Askarov’s conviction and sent the case back to a lower court for review in light of “new circumstances that appeared in the case.”
However, in January 2017, a court in Bishkek reinstated a life sentence for Askarov after again finding him guilty of stirring up ethnic hatred and involvement in a police officer’s murder.
Earlier in June, eight international human rights organizations and media freedom watchdogs urged EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and other EU officials to call for Askarov’s immediate release from prison.
Askarov’s lawyers have said the activist’s health has deteriorated “significantly” during the nine years he has so far served in prison.