Annual Prison Census 2011 - Kyrgyzstan
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||8 December 2011|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2011 - Kyrgyzstan, 8 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f0420aac.html [accessed 30 August 2015]|
Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2011
Azimjon Askarov, freelance
Imprisoned: June 15, 2010
Askarov, a contributor to the independent news website Voice of Freedom and director of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), was serving a life term on a series of fabricated charges that included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer. His appeal was pending before the Supreme Court in late 2011.
Authorities in the southern Jalal-Abad region arrested Askarov after a violent confrontation between police and villagers in Bazar-Korgon. One police officer was killed in the conflict. The episode took place amid deadly ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents, which engulfed all of southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. The clashes left hundreds dead, and forced up to a half-million people to flee their homes. According to press reports and CPJ sources, Askarov was reporting on violence, destruction, looting, and human rights abuses in Bazar-Korgon at the time.
CPJ research shows that Askarov was imprisoned in retaliation for his journalism and human rights work. Before his arrest, Askarov had reported allegations that regional police had fabricated criminal cases against innocent people and had tortured detainees in custody. As a result of Askarov's work, several senior law enforcement officials had been dismissed from their posts, according to Voice of Freedom and CPJ sources.
Regional prosecutors initially charged Askarov, 61, with organizing the riots, but later expanded his indictment to include complicity in the murder of a police officer, possession of ammunition and extremist literature, and attempted kidnapping, regional press reports said. Askarov denied the charges, and said he had not been present at the scene. In June 2011, Askarov told the independent news website Fergana News that he came to the scene of the killing only after his neighbors alerted him to the events. During his trial, Askarov said, neighbors wanted to testify on his behalf, but regional police and prosecutors threatened them into silence.
Askarov, held by the same department whose officer was killed in Bazar-Korgon, was beaten by police while in custody, defense lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov told CPJ. Toktakunov said he himself was attacked by relatives of the deceased officer. Authorities did not investigate the reports, according to CPJ research.
On September 15, 2010, Judge Nurgazy Alimbayev pronounced Askarov guilty on all charges and sentenced him to life in prison. Toktakunov said the prosecution had failed to produce any evidence or witness testimony that implicated Askarov.