May 13, 2020 / 12:18 PM / 12 days ago

Kyrgyz court upholds life sentence for dissident who received U.S. rights award

BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court upheld a life sentence on Wednesday for a prominent dissident convicted of “inciting inter-ethnic hatred” in the former Soviet republic, quashing hopes for his release under a new leadership.

Azimjon Askarov’s imprisonment sparked a spat with the United States in 2015 when Washington granted him a human rights award. Almazbek Atambayev, Kyrgyz president at the time, responded by terminating a cooperation accord with the United States; a new one is yet to be signed.

Askarov, a 69-year-old ethnic Uzbek, was convicted of organising mass disturbances and stirring up ethnic hatred leading to the death of a policeman during clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, when more than 400 people were killed.

The Supreme Court, which heard the appeal by Askarov, a journalist and human rights activist, said in a brief ruling on Wednesday it had been rejected.

Hoping for change under Atambayev’s successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, several human rights groups this year asked the Kyrgyz leadership to release Askarov.

Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams

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