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Jailed Kyrgyz Rights Activist Accused Of Murder

The Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office says that jailed rights activist Azimjan Askarov is accused of instigating interethnic hatred and the killing of a policeman, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The prosecutor's office issued a press release on June 30 that details Askarov's arrest on June 16 during the ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.

It says that Askarov, the head of the human rights organization Air, was detained in the village of Bazar-Korgon in the Jalal-Abad region on charges of inciting national hatred, organizing riots, and killing police officer Myktybek Sulaymanov on June 13.

Sulaymanov's burnt body was found buried a short distance from the highway. The press release says that on June 24 Askarov's lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office saying that Askarov has severe bruises on his body as a result of being tortured while in detention.

After Toktakunov's complaint was filed, investigators stated that Askarov was beaten by one of his cellmates. In a request to the prosecutor's office on June 25, Askarov allegedly said he had no complaints to make against his cellmate or against any police officers, and he refused to undergo a medical checkup.

Meanwhile, Aziza Abdurasulova, the director of the Torch of the Century human rights group who had worked with Askarov, told RFE/RL on June 26 that she was in phone contact with Askarov before he was detained.

Human rights groups have called for Askarov's release, claiming that he was arrested while filming local Kyrgyz police shooting at ethnic Uzbek civilians.

At least 291 people were killed and hundreds of thousands, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, fled their homes when ethnic fighting broke out between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad on June 10.