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As Andrew Anderson finishes his research mission to Kyrgyzstan the courage and commitment of the human rights defenders he met reminds him of how optimism must triumph over experience.
Optimism Over Experience
The end of our visit was a whirlwind of media interviews, meetings with human rights defenders and a valuable meeting with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the media interviews the main focus was the gross violations of Azimjan's right to a fair trial. He was tortured. He was denied access to his lawyer. He was unable to call witnesses because of threats and intimidation in the court room. His lawyer was beaten and he faced death threats during what pretended to be a trial. His allegations of torture were ignored.
No credible evidence was brought against him.
It seems the authorities are embarrassed and know that this is damaging their international relations but there are also questions as to whether they have the courage or capacity to address this. We heard repeated allegations that political figures have intervened in the case because of their own family interests.
Front Line's Deputy Director Andrew Anderson is currently on mission in Kyrgyzstan where he had been given permission to visit imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. Azimjan is serving a life sentence after an unfair trial during which he was routinely beaten and denied access to his lawyer.
Azimjan Askarov - a brave man in a cruel imprisonment
"We had the great privilege of meeting Azimjan Askarov in prison colony 47 today in Bishkek.
The prison is actually supposed to be a prison hospital although that is not immediately obvious as we arrive at the entrance and shiver in the icy cold whilst our permissions and presents are processed and checked. Its very much a Soviet era institution, apparently the x-ray machine is a genuine antique, but we are ushered across a frozen courtyard and up to the Prison Director's office to meet Azimjan.
We receive a warm welcome from Azimjan who is looking much better than he did at his appeal hearing. He insists he is feeling much better too, and is being treated well here in Bishkek.
While Front Line welcomes reports that Nasrin Soutoudeh has ended her hunger strike the organisation remains concerned for her well being and reiterates its call for her immediate and unconditional release."Sotoudeh Ends Hunger Strike Following Trial Session (15 November 2010) Nasrin Sotoudeh’s first trial was held today at Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Pir-Abbasi. A source knowledgeable about Sotoudeh’s prosecution told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that, "She was very weak and has lost a lot of weight. After the trial, she took the advice of her lawyers and husband and agreed to break her hunger strike."
According to this source, Judge Pir-Abbasi agreed to reconsider the order to renew Sotoudeh’s detention. "The trial was held in the presence of Sotoudeh’s lawyers, Abdolfattah Soltani, Mina Jaafari, and Nasim Ghanavi.
On 15 September Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after an unfair trial during which he appeared in court with visible signs of having been beaten and during which the lawyers and defendants were routinely shouted at, threatened and intimidated.
Azimjan is a human rights defender of ethic Uzbek origin who campaigned for human rights and who during the recent inter-ethnic conflict was documenting the violence. He also used his influence to try and calm the situation.
The prosecution of Azimjan Askarov is part of an ongoing campaign by the authorities to fix blame for the inter-ethnic violence on the Uzbek community.
Azimjan's appeal against his life sentence starts its next session today
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN TODAY - HELP GET AZIMJAN ASKAROV OUT OF JAIL