Asia-Pacific

Human rights groups condemn Kyrgyzstan activist jailing

An Uzbek woman in the ruins of her house
Southern Kyrgyzstan remains on edge after ethnic violence displaced around 400,000 people.

Human rights groups have condemned a life sentence handed to a leading rights activist in Kyrgyzstan.

Azimzhan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek, was found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred during deadly violence in the southern city of Osh earlier this year.

The groups said the trial was marred by violence and procedural irregularities.

Independent Kyrgyz ombudsman Tursunbek Akun said he considered the court ruling unfounded and that the criminal case was fabricated.

Officials say hundreds of people were killed in the unrest in June.

Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced by the violence that erupted between the ethnic Kyrgyz and minority Uzbek communities.

Reports said that Mr Askarov had been documenting attacks on Uzbek homes during the unrest. Amnesty International claimed he had collected evidence implicating police in the violence.

Human Rights Watch described disturbing scenes from the trial, including physical attacks against Mr Askarov's lawyers while police and court officials watched.

Local activist Sardar Bagshibekov told Reuters news agency that the trial was "very biased, heavily dominated by the prosecution. Strong pressure was put on defence lawyers and the accused".