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Appellate court upholds Uzbek journalist’s life sentence

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A regional court in Kyrgyzstan has upheld a life sentence for a journalist, who is also a human rights advocate, despite international criticism over the ruling.

A regional court ruled that the life in prison sentence handed to 66-year-old Azimzhan Askarov at an earlier court of law is to be carried out.

Askarov, who allegedly organized mass rallies and incited violence and murder of a police officer during ethnic unrest in the south of Kyrgyzstan in 2010, said he would go on hunger strike in protest at the ruling.

Askarov is a member of the ethnic Uzbek minority community in Kyrgyzstan.

In July 2010, during clashes which left  more than 450 people killed, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, Askarov had been filming killings and arson attacks. He was subsequently arrested, tried and given a life sentence, which he is currently serving.

Askarov’s case was sent for review last year after the United Nations Human Rights Committee in April urged Kyrgyzstan to release him, finding that he had been arbitrarily detained, tortured and denied his right to a fair trial.

Numerous groups have advocated on his behalf, including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, People In Need, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Amnesty International, the latter of which designated him a prisoner of conscience.

Askarov has worked as a human rights activist since the mid-1990s, campaigning against police brutality.

The majority of the 6 million people in the country are the Kyrgyz ethnic group.

The Uzbek are the largest ethnic minority in Kyrgyzstan and make up approximately 14 percent of the population.

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