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Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry Summons U.S. Envoy Over Askarov's Award

Imprisoned Kyrgyz rights activist Azimjan Askarov

Kyrgyzstan has protested to the United States over the granting of a prestigious human rights award to a jailed Kyrgyz human rights defender.

The Foreign Ministry handed a protest note to U.S. Charge d'Affaires Richard Miles on July 17, a day after the State Department conferred the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award on Azimjon Askarov. His son, Sherzod, accepted it on his behalf.

The Kyrgyz government said in a statement that the decision "contradicts the friendly relations between Kyrgyzstan and the United States and can damage the government's efforts to consolidate interethnic harmony."

The government also said it intended to unilaterally denounce a 1993 Kyrgyz-U.S. cooperation agreement.

Askarov was sentenced to life in prison after a court found him guilty of organizing deadly clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the country's south and involvement in the murder of a police officer during the 2010 violence.

He denies any wrongdoings and says his case is politically motivated.