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Rights Defender Sentenced To Life In Prison In Kyrgyzstan

Azimjan Askarov in court earlier this month

Azimjan Askarov in court earlier this month

NOOKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- A well-known ethnic Uzbek human rights activist has been sentenced to life in prison for involvement in the killing of a Kyrgyz policeman, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Azimjan Askarov and seven other ethnic Uzbeks were found guilty of murdering Myktybek Sulaimanov in June during violent clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the village of Bazar-Korgon.

The defendants were given the chance to give their final testimonies before the verdict today. All pleaded not guilty, some of them reversing earlier guilty pleas.

Four of Askarov's co-defendants were also sentenced to life in prison with confiscation of their property, two were sentenced to 20 years in jail, and one person was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun told RFE/RL that the verdict was politically motivated, adding that his office had held an alternative investigation into Sulaimanov's killing and came to the conclusion that Askarov is not guilty.