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Jailed Kyrgyz Rights Activist Scraps Hunger Strike Plan

Imprisoned Kyrgyz rights activist Azimjan Askarov
Imprisoned Kyrgyz rights activist Azimjan Askarov
BISHKEK -- Jailed Kyrgyz rights activist Azimjan Askarov said he has decided not to go on a hunger strike to protest his conviction and prison sentence, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Askarov told Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun in December that he planned to start a hunger strike by January 9 unless authorities ordered a retrial of his case.

But Akun told RFE/RL on January 10 that he spoke to Askarov by phone and persuaded him to change his mind regarding his plans for a hunger strike.

Askarov's lawyer also opposed the hunger strike idea because he thought it would hurt Askarov's next appeal attempt.

Askarov, 61, an ethnic Uzbek, was sentenced in 2010 to life in jail for his part in deadly ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 which led to some 400 people being killed.

He was also found guilty of involvement in the murder of a policeman during the unrest.

Seven others were convicted with Askarov on the same charges and given various prison terms.

The Supreme Court upheld his conviction on December 20.

United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed "regret" with the Supreme Court's ruling.

Askarov is the head of the human rights group Vozdukh (Air), and for many years worked to document poor prison conditions and police's abuse of detainees.

Askarov says the case against him is politically motivated. He denies any involvement in the crimes he was convicted of.

Read more in Kyrgyz here