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Human Rights Activist's Appeal Trial Resumes In Kyrgyzstan

Ethnic Uzbek human rights defender Azimjan Askarov says he is innocent of the charges brought against him.
TASH-KUMYR, Kyrgyzstan -- The appeal hearing has resumed in southern Kyrgyzstan for an ethnic Uzbek human rights activist jailed for life in connection with June's deadly ethnic violence, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Azimjan Askarov and seven other ethnic Uzbeks were found guilty on September 15 by a court in the southern town of Nooken of organizing ethnic clashes and of involvement in the murder of a policeman in the village of Bazar-Korgon.

Askarov and four others received life sentences, two were given 20-year prison terms, and one was sentenced to nine years.

Askarov, who is a Kyrgyz citizen, says he is innocent of the charges. Human rights activists who initiated Askarov's appeal say they will continue to work to secure his release.

Askarov, six other ethnic Uzbeks convicted in the case, and several witnesses testified at the appeal hearing in the southern Kyrgyz town of Tash-Kumyr on October 25.

Jalal-Abad regional court Chairman Rysbek Shukuraliev told RFE/RL last week that Tash-Kumyr was selected as the venue for the appeals hearing for security reasons.

Some Uzbek defendants and their lawyers have been assaulted and beaten by relatives of the victims outside the courthouses, causing their trials to be postponed.

More than 400 people died in violent clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in mid-June in the southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad.