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HRW Appeals To Kyrgyzstan Over 'Miscarriage' Of Justice

Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov at an appeal court hearing

Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov at an appeal court hearing

Human Rights Watch is urging the Kyrgyz Supreme Court to overturn what it says is a miscarriage of justice in a murder case from last year's ethnic violence in the south.

The Supreme Court has started hearings in a case against eight ethnic Uzbeks, including a well-known human rights defender, found guilty of involvement in the brutal killing of a policeman and injuring of several officers in the southern city of Bazar-Kurgan last June.

The eight say they were beaten and threatened while in police custody.

Azimjan Askarov, a human rights defender from southern Kyrgyzstan, says police repeatedly beat him after taking him into custody on June 15, 2010.

He says police also threatened they would "deal with him" if he failed to withdraw a complaint with Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman about the beatings and a request for medical attention.

Human Rights Watch says the case against the eight has been a "miscarriage of justice from the very beginning," and is urging the Supreme Court to order a retrial and a probe into allegations of torture.

"Upholding the guilty verdict would make a mockery of the defendants' right to a fair trial, the victims' right to justice, and Kyrgyzstan's justice system," according to Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Southern Kyrgyzstan was the site of fighting between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz last June. The violence broke out in the city of Osh and quickly spread to the nearby Jalal-Abad region.

The violence left at least 370 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.