Washington, D.C., July 30, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed deep disappointment and concern over today’s court decision in Kyrgyzstan to uphold the life sentence of journalist and human rights defender Azimjon Askarov.
The Chui provincial court ruled in favor of the prosecution, which argued that a life sentence could not be reviewed or overturned, according to news reports. Neither the defendant nor his lawyer was able to attend the closed-door proceedings, according to those reports. Askarov has served nine years of his life sentence and is in poor health, according to CPJ research.
“The swift and secret nature of today’s court proceedings clearly show that Kyrgyz authorities were never serious about acceding to the repeated demands of the local and international human rights communities to release Azimjon Askarov immediately and unconditionally,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “We are shocked and disappointed by the court’s ruling and call on the authorities to immediately release Askarov, who never committed a crime.”
Askarov, a contributor to independent news websites including Voice of Freedom, was convicted in September 2010 on charges including incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer, after he documented human rights violations in his hometown of Bazar-Korgon, according to CPJ research. In June 2012, CPJ issued a special report based on interviews with Askarov, his lawyers, and defense witnesses, as well as a review of court documents, which found that his case was authorities’ retaliation against Askarov for his reporting on corrupt and abusive practices among regional police and prosecutors.
[Editor’s Note: This article has been changed in its second paragraph to correct the number of years that Askarov has served in jail.]