A rights defender whose detention in Kyrgyzstan became a point of contention between the Central Asian country and the United States has died in jail, his lawyer said Saturday.
Ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan – a loyal ally of Russia – tore up a long-running cooperation agreement with the United States after Washington awarded a rights prize to Azimjon Askarov in 2015.
The 69-year-old was serving a life sentence for inciting disorder and complicity in the murder of a policeman, allegations which he denied.
He was “unable to walk” due to an illness, his lawyer Valeryan Vahitov told AFP by telephone Saturday, July 25, following a visit to his client this week.
“No one paid him any attention. The system killed him,” Vahitov said, confirming Askarov had died.
“I brought him melons and watermelons. I told him to eat, to hold himself together, that we all loved him,” Vahitov said of his last visit to Askarov.
“He cried. (Askarov) knew that he was dying and no one lifted a finger.”
In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Askarov’s detention was arbitrary and that he had been tortured in detention.
Yet multiple courts in Kyrgyzstan upheld Askarov’s conviction, which dated back to a spate of bloody ethnic violence in 2010.
He was from the ethnic Uzbek minority and had a long history of opposing police abuse and torture in his home region of Jalal-Abdad, which was one of the flashpoints of the violence.
The clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of the impoverished country left hundreds dead and echoed lethal violence between the two groups on the eve of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. – Rappler.com