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Kyrgyz Officials Move To Confiscate House Of Jailed Ethnic Uzbek Activist

Azimjan Askarov in prison in Bishkek in 2011.
Azimjan Askarov in prison in Bishkek in 2011.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz officials are taking steps to seize a home belonging to Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek political activist who was jailed in 2010 to the dismay of rights watchdogs following ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan.

The chairwoman of the Jalal-Abad Regional State Property Foundation Directorate, Gulnara Kojoeva, told RFE/RL on May 29 that Askarov's house in the village of Bazar-Korgon would be confiscated by the government, in accordance with Askarov’s sentence.

Askarov, a Kyrgyz national of Uzbek ethnicity, is currently serving a life sentence after a court in the Jalal-Abad region found him guilty of organizing deadly clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010.

Askarov was convicted of involvement in the murder of a policeman who was killed during the clashes, in which more than 450 people -- mostly ethnic Uzbeks -- were killed. Askarov and his supporters denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Askarov’s case has been watched closely by human rights groups, with Amnesty International identifying him as a prisoner of conscience. The activist, who has claimed he was tortured while in police custody, was given the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award by the United States.

Askarov's wife, Khadicha Askarova, told RFE/RL that some 20 officials in five cars arrived on May 25 to evaluate the home in question. The move by Jalal-Abad regional officials comes just weeks after the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) officially urged Bishkek on April 21 to release Askarov after looking into his official complaint. The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has joined the UN demand.

The chairwoman of Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court, Ainash Tokbaeva, said on April 25 that the Supreme Court's decision in December 2011 to uphold Askarov's conviction by a lower court would have to be revised in order to comply with the OHCHR's call.

But on April 30, Kyrgyz presidential aide Busurmankul Taabaldiev publicly criticized the OHCHR's request to release Askarov, saying the UN body had interfered in Kyrgyzstan's internal affairs. Several days later, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev told Russia's Interfax news agency that parts of Kyrgyzstan's constitution were "undermining Kyrgyzstan's sovereignty" and "must be amended."

The Bishkek-based Bir-Duino-Kyrgyzstan (One World-Kyrgyzstan) human rights center has said that Askarov's house cannot legally be confiscated. The center's lawyer, Otkur Japarov, told RFE/RL that, according to Kyrgyz laws, a convicted individual’s house cannot be confiscated if it occupied by relatives.

Kyrgyzstan's constitution allows its citizens to call upon international courts to protect their rights, and it requires that Kyrgyz authorities comply with decisions made by such institutions.