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Protest In Warsaw On Behalf Of Jailed Kyrgyz Rights Activist

Azimjan Askarov during a visit by his wife to his prison in March
Azimjan Askarov during a visit by his wife to his prison in March
WARSAW -- Dozens of Kyrgyz rights activists and their supporters have held a protest in Warsaw to demand the release of a prominent rights activist jailed in Kyrgyzstan over last year's ethnic violence, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The protest on behalf of Azimjan Askarov was held September 29 in front of the hotel where the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is holding an annual human rights conference.

The protesters wore T-shirts with Askarov's portrait and held placards demanding his release. The activists told RFE/RL that a human rights defender from the Bishkek-based NGO Voice of Freedom, Sardar Bagishbekov, read aloud at the protest a request signed by several Kyrgyz human rights organizations demanding Askarov's immediate release from prison.

Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek from Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh province, is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of organizing ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June 2010, and of involvement in the murder of a policeman during the violence.

Human rights groups in Kyrgyzstan and abroad have criticized Askarov's trial and sentence. In March, the Czech NGO People In Need designated Askarov the recipient of its annual Homo Homini prize, awarded "for dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy, and nonviolent solutions to political conflicts."

Askarov told RFE/RL in March this year that he was jailed solely because of his professional activities as a human rights activist, which focused on prison conditions and police treatment of detainees.

Read more in Kyrgyz here