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Ethnic Uzbek Rights Activist's Trial Continues In Kyrgyzstan

Azimjan Askarov at his trial
Azimjan Askarov at his trial
NOOKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- The trial of a well-known Kyrgyz human rights activist charged in connection with the murder of a policeman has continued in the southern Jalal-Abad region, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Azimjan Askarov and seven other ethnic Uzbeks are accused of killing policeman Myktybek Sulaimanov on June 12 during violent clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the village of Bazar-Korgon.

Askarov and five other defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge, while the other two pleaded guilty.

Askarov's lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, said in court on September 6 that he needed more time to get fully acquainted with the case. He also demanded that Askarov be given a thorough medical exam, as he had a bruised eye.

Askarov has refused a medical exam, saying that no one beat him and the bruise was caused while he was being brought to the courtroom with other defendants on a previous occasion.

"To provide security for the defendants, [the guards] surrounded us from both sides and took us from the detention center to the courtroom. There were very narrow places on our way and [the guards] made the defendants run," Askarov said.

"All of the defendants [except me] are young men; [they were] handcuffed to each other. When we were running, one of my shoes fell off as my shoelaces got tangled. When I stopped to get my shoe, I bumped my head into the back of [the defendant] in front of me twice, and while I was putting my shoe on I bumped my face one more time.

"Nobody beat me. Police would not beat a 60-year-old, would they?"

Although the crime was committed in Bazar-Korgon, Kyrgyz officials decided to hold the trial in the village of Nooken due to the protests and aggressive behavior from Sulaimanov's relatives at an earlier court session in Bazar-Korgon.

Toktakunov was also allegedly threatened by some of Sulaimanov's relatives last month for defending Askarov.

A large number of Sulaimanov's relatives still came to Nooken on September 6 and today and displayed signs demanding "severe punishment" and "death" to those who killed Sulaimanov. Askarov's relatives did not attend today's session.

Human Rights Watch has demanded that an open and fair trial be held for Askarov and the other defendants. The trial is open to the public.