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Kyrgyz Journalist 'Given Political Asylum' In France

Kyrgyz journalist Ulugbek Babakulov (file photo)

A prominent journalist who has been charged by Kyrgyz authorities with inciting ethnic hatred says he has received political asylum in France.

Ulugbek Babakulov, a correspondent for the Russia-based Fergana news site, said on February 25 that he received an official letter from French authorities confirming his political refugee status on that day.

Babakulov said his refugee status is valid for 10 years, during which he is not allowed to visit Kyrgyzstan or Kyrgyz diplomatic missions around the world.

Babakulov left Kyrgyzstan in June 2017 to get away from what he called the "insanity" launched against him.

The ethnic-hatred charge stems from an article published in May 2017 about Kyrgyz social-network users' reactions to a conflict involving an ethnic Uzbek man and four Kyrgyz men.

Lawmakers called Babakulov's article a "provocation," pointing to its publication shortly before the anniversary of unrest between ethnic Kygryz and Uzbeks that killed more than 450 people, the majority of them ethnic Uzbeks, in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.

Babakulov has insisted that he merely raised the issue and had no intention of inciting hatred.

With reporting by Fergana