Commenting on the microblog site Twitter about Askarov's life sentence, Sardar Bagishbekov, a human rights activist and head of the Voice of Freedom website in Kyrgyzstan said, "the judge in the case of Askarov and 7 others was simply morally unprepared to objectively review the case, I saw this in everything about the trial in Nooken."
Judge Nurgazy Alimbayev pronounced Askarov guilty on charges of complicity to commit homicide and murder of a police officer (two separate counts related to the same incident), possession of ammunition and extremist literature, and attempted kidnapping, reported ferghana.ru. Local and international human rights activists denied the charges, saying Askarov had been singled out for retaliation.
Research by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) indicates the charges are unfounded and that Askarov may have been targeted for revenge by Jalal-Abad law enforcement because of his documentation of human rights violations, including by local police, in southern Kyrgyzstan . Authorities incriminated him for incidents in the region during unrest in May, when in fact he had documented proof he was in Bishkek, notes CPJ. Prosecutors also failed to prove Askarov was on the scene in Bazar-Korgon at the time the police office was killed.
“We are outraged by the sentence delivered today in Jalal-Abad to Azimjon Askarov, and call on Kyrgyzstan’s higher courts to overturn his verdict,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Nina Ognianova in a press release today.
“Askarov’s prosecution and trial were marred by procedural violations, which must be investigated, and he must be guaranteed a fair appeal.” CPJ had earlier urged President Roza Otunbayeva that Askarov receive a fair trial.
Human rights activists had asked that the trial be moved to another venue, because relatives of the policeman killed kept harassing the defendants and interrupting the proceedings, and even had to be removed from the courtroom, the Kyrgyz news site 24kg.org reported. The mayhem at the trial reflected what appear to be irreconcilable differences between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz communities on what happened during the June violence and who is to blame, EurasiaNet reported.
Front Line, a Dublin-based human rights group that monitored the trial, fears Askarov was tortured in detention, as he appeared in court with bruises on his body.
Askarov’s lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov told CPJ he planned to appeal.