New York, February 24, 2020 — Kyrgyzstan authorities should not contest the appeal of journalist and human rights defender Azimjon Askarov and should release him immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The country’s Supreme Court is set to hear Askarov’s appeal tomorrow, according to independent Kyrgyz news website Kloop and Askarov’s son Sherzod Askarov, who spoke to CPJ. Askarov has been jailed since 2010 on charges including incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer, which were filed in retaliation for his coverage of inter-ethnic conflict in Kyrgyzstan, according to CPJ research.
In 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Committee found that Askarov had been unjustly arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, and was held in inhumane conditions, and called for his release, according to a statement from the committee.
“If Kyrgyzstan wants to wash the terrible stain from its press freedom and human rights record, it should finally release Azimjon Askarov,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Kyrgyz authorities should deliver long-overdue justice in Askarov’s final appeal, and allow him to reunite with his loved ones and get adequate medical treatment.”
As a contributor to independent news websites including Voice of Freedom, and director of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), Askarov documented human rights violations for over a decade until his arrest in June 2010, according to CPJ research. During CPJ’s July 2019 prison visit and in letters he wrote from prison, which CPJ reviewed, Askarov said he was in poor health and complained about the harsh conditions in prison.
Askarov received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2012.