The spokesperson of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton issued a following statement today:

“The High Representative Catherine Ashton is deeply concerned by the conviction of Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimjan Askarov to a life sentence and confiscation of his property, in the light of the manifest violations of his right to a fair trial. This ruling sends a negative signal with regards to the situation of human rights defenders in the country and runs counter to ongoing efforts towards inter-ethnic reconciliation.

High Representative remains seriously concerned by reports that Mr Askarov was ill-treated while in police custody and that his lawyer and relatives were harassed. She wishes to remind the Kyrgyz authorities of their obligations to investigate allegations of torture in an impartial and prompt manner and to protect human rights defenders in light of the commitments freely undertaken by Kyrgyzstan under international and domestic law.

Should Mr Askarov decide to appeal, HR urges the authorities to do everything in their power to ensure that his right to a fair trial is respected, and that the safety of the defendants, their relatives and their lawyers and the impartiality of the proceedings is ensured.

Mr Askarov and his non-governmental organisation “Air”, have carried out important work in documenting prison conditions and the treatment of detainees by police in the Jalal-Abad province, and recently recorded the violent incidents that took place in the region during the June events.

The EU attended the full proceedings of the trial, and has regularly raised the case of Mr Askarov with the authorities. The EU will continue to monitor the overall situation of human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan.”

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