Kyrgyzstan: Court to hear Azimjan Askarov’s application to release seizure on his family home

10/08/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
KGZ 001 / 0910 / OBS 109.6

Restriction of property rights
Kyrgyzstan
August 10, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the unlawful restriction of property rights of the Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) Mr. Azimjan Askarov, who currently serves a life sentence in the Pre-trial detention centre in Bishkek.

According to the information received, on August 16, 2017, Bazar Korgon District Court of Jalal Abad Oblast will consider the lawsuit filed by Mr. Azimjan Askarov requesting the court to release the family main residence house from seizure [1].

The Observatory recalls that on September 15, 2010, the Bazar Korgon District Court had ordered the confiscation of Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s property as part of a life sentence handed down against him which was upheld by the Chuy Regional Court of Kyrgyzstan on January 24, 2017 [2] . However, the Penal Enforcement Code of Kyrgyzstan (Annex to the Section VII, Chapter 22) prohibits confiscating convicted person’s main residence or the main residence of convicted person’s family members. Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s house, where his wife lives, is their only residence and therefore according to Kyrgyz law is not subject to confiscation and therefore nor to seizure [3].

Since 2010, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bazar-Korgon District has conducted to several visits in view of confiscating Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s house.

On May 25, 2016, shortly after the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee (CCPR) requested Kyrgyzstan to release Mr. Azimjan Askarov, the court bailiffs and representatives of the State Property Fund of Kyrgyzstan (SPFK) led a visit at Azimjan Askarov’s house and took photos of the property. SPFK explained to Mr. Askarov’s wife that they were implementing a decision adopted on April 27, 2016 to execute the confiscation order.

Then Mr. Askarov’s lawyer filed a lawsuit before the Inter-district Court of Bishkek requesting it to declare the abovementioned SPFK decision unlawful. Before the case was brought to trial, on September 26, 2016, SPFK annulled its decision.

Despite multiple requests from Mr. Askarov’s lawyers, the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyz Republic has still not released Askarov’s house from seizure.

The Observatory thus expresses its concern over the ongoing unlawful restriction of property rights of Mr. Azimjan Askarov and considers this unlawful measure as a means of harassment and pressure on the human rights defender and his family. Furthermore, the Observatory reiterates its call to implement the UN CCPR Opinion and release immediately and unconditionally Azimjan Askarov.

Background information:

As the Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air), Mr. Azimjan Askarov has been documenting police ill-treatment of detainees and monitoring the human rights situation in the province of Jalal-Abad, in particular the mass violence in Bazar Korgon in June 2010.

On June 15, 2010, Mr. Askarov was arbitrarily arrested by agents of Bazar Korgon police department for allegedly having urged ethnic Uzbeks to take the district official Mr. A. Artykov hostage, for having ordered the blockade of the Bishkek-Osh highway and for urged to attack police officers. One of the attacks caused the death of a policeman Mr. Sulaimanov.

On September 15, 2010, following an unfair trial, Mr. Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of complicity in Mr. Sulaimanov’s murder. The trial was marred with irregularities, including alleged torture and the courtroom intimidation of witnesses by police and of lawyers by the audience. Mr. Askarov and the other defendants had pleaded not guilty during the trial. His lawyer, Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, asked for a medical examination, which was denied. According to family members of the suspects and human rights organisations, all of them were subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment by prison guards in custody and presented visible physical injuries.

On November 10, 2010, the court of appeal upheld the life sentence of Mr. Azimjan Askarov following a trial marred by irregularities. At that time the health of Mr. Askarov had already severely deteriorated.

On January 26, 2011, the defence lawyers requested the Supreme Court to examine and include new evidence in the criminal case, including a testimony made by Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, Director of the human rights organisation Kylym Shamy, that showed that, in May 2010, Mr. Azimjan Askarov had warned the authorities that acts of violence were being prepared in Bazar Korgon. According to Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov, this warning might have triggered the fabrication of this case. In addition, defence lawyer Kairat Zagibaev provided evidence showing that Mr. Askarov was not present at the scene where the incidents took place. The Supreme Court accepted the new evidence. On February 8, 2011, the same Court decided to open an investigation into the conditions of detention in Kyrgyzstan, especially in provisional detention centres, and to suspend sine die the trial against Mr. Askarov. This decision was taken following a petition made by Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer of Mr. Askarov, on the appalling conditions of detention of his client and other prisoners in the temporary detention facilities of Bazar Korgon, which have hampered the preparation of the defence.

In October 2011, Mr. Askarov’s defence team conducted a private investigation and gathered evidence pointing to the innocence of the latter and reporting use of torture and inhuman treatment against him.

On December 20, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence to life imprisonment. After years of pressure, in May 2013, a new investigation was ordered by the Vice Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyzstan Republic, but was closed nine months later for lack of legal basis.

On September 3, 2014, the Supreme Court reversed the Bishkek District Court decision of April 30, 2014 which was in favour of a re-opening Mr. Askarov’s case. The hearing was marked by acts of intimidation against Mr. Askarov. It is reported that several unidentified individuals stopped the hearing and brought the convict outside of the courtroom to talk privately.

On April 21, 2016, the CCPR confirmed that Mr. Azimjan Askarov was tortured, subject to inhuman conditions while in pre-trial detention and that his trial did not respect minimum international fair trial standards. The CCPR urged Kyrgyzstan to immediately release Mr. Azimjan Askarov.

On July 11 and 12, 2016, the Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court heard the appeal that had been filed by the lawyers of Mr. Azimjan Askarov under Article 41.2 of the Constitution, which obliges Kyrgyzstan to restore human rights in the event that international bodies confirm a violation, and ordered a fresh appeal hearing before the Chuy Regional Court in Bishkek in the case of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, and left his life sentence conviction unchanged.

On January 24, 2017, the Chuy Regional Court of Kyrgyzstan confirmed the life sentence against Mr. Azimjan Askarov following a trial marked by bias and procedural irregularities, including court refusal to hear some defence witnesses, inaction towards threats and violent behavior of deceased police officer’s wife, restrictions to access to the courtroom, failure to investigate credible allegations of torture and ignoring acts of pressure and intimidation targeting defence witnesses and lawyers.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Kyrgyzstan, urging them to:

i. Immediately release Mr. Azimjan Askarov, quash his conviction and provide him with adequate compensation in accordance with the decision of the UNCCPR;

ii. Undertake a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the claims of ill-treatment and torture while in prison of Mr. Azimjan Askarov;

iii. Comply with the national legislation regulating property arrest and property confiscation;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Azimjan Askarov and all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

Addresses:

Mr. Almazbek Atambaev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chuy Ave, 205, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Tel: +996 312 63 91 17, Fax: + 996312626191

Mr. Ulan Israilov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Frunze st. 469, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +(996 312) 26 60 54, Fax: + 996312682044 / + 996312623853, email: secretariat@mvd.kg

Mr. Uran Akhmetov, Minister of Justice, 32 M. Gandi Str., 720010 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 656490, Fax: +996 (312) 656502, email: jm.26@mail.ru

Ms. Indira Joldubayeva, General Prosecutor Office, 39 Erkindik Avenue, 720040 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan ,Tel: +996 (312) 663373, Fax: +996 (312) 661734

Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 51 (3rd Floor) 1202 Geneva, Tel: +41 22 707 92 20, Email: kyrgyzmission@bluewin.ch, Fax: +41 22 707.92.21

Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Brussels, Abdijstraat 47 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 18 68 / + 32 2 640 38 83, Fax: + 32 2 640 01 31, Email: aitmatov@infonie.be

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Kyrgyzstan in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, August 10, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

Read more
appelobs