Kyrgyzstan: Court upholds life-sentence of journalist & human rights activist Azimjon Askarov

Kyrgyz authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist and human rights activist Azimjon Askarov and drop all charges against him.

Askarov, a member of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek minority, spent his career exposing corruption. He was arrested during the inter-ethnic conflict that swept Osh and Jalal-Abad in June 2010 and convicted, on 15 September 2010, on charges of complicity in murder and inciting hatred in connection to his reporting on fatal ethnic violence.

In March 2016 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, tortured, mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his defence as well as being denied treatment for serious medical conditions. A number of the defence witnesses also told the court that they had been intimidated and threatened during the course of the first trial and there were serious failures in the investigation against him. In spite of this and the widespread calls for his release from PEN and others, on 24 January a Kyrgyzstan court announced their decision to uphold Askarov’s life sentence.

Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee said:

We call for the immediate release of Azimjon Askarov who has been denied due process for too long.  The latest decision by the Kyrgyzstan’s Chui Regional Court to uphold his life sentence is an appalling miscarriage of justice and is clearly yet another attempt by Kyrgyz authorities to supress free speech. PEN will continue to campaign for Askarov’s freedom as long as it takes, as long as he remains behind bars.

Askarov was an honorary ‘Empty Chair’ at PEN’s 80th International Congress in 2014 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where his wife, Hadicha Askarova, made a moving personal appeal to PEN delegates. During its Congress, PEN delegations raised Askarov’s case directly in private meetings with both President Atambayev and the General Prosecutor, Aida Salyanova. Askarov also featured in PEN’s 2014 Day of the Imprisoned Writer Campaign.

Take action

Spread the word

Share details of Azimjon Askarov’s ongoing detention, and leading writer Yann Martel’s open letter to him, with friends and colleagues and on social media.


Send messages of support

Take a few minutes to write to Azimjon in prison: his friends and family say that messages of support provide great comfort and inspiration. If possible, please send a photo of your messages to and share on social media with the hashtags #PENgreetings and #FreeAzimjonAskarov

Azimjon Askarov
720755, Kyrgyz Republic, Bishkek city,
91 Malikova Street,
Penal colony #47

Азимжану Аскарову
720755, Кыргызская Республика, г. Бишкек,
ул. Маликова 91,
Исправительная колония № 47

Write to the authorities

Please send appeals:

  • Calling for the immediate release of journalist and human rights defender Azimjon Askarov, for his conviction to be overturned, and for his allegations of torture to be thoroughly and impartially investigated;
  • Calling for anyone found responsible for violating Askarov’s rights to be brought to justice and for Askarov to be provided with adequate redress for any such violations, including an enforceable right to compensation for any torture he is found to have been subjected to.


Appeals to:

President of Kyrgyzstan
His Excellency Almazbek Atambayev
Office of the President
Chuy Avenue 205
72003 Bishkek
Republic of Kyrgyzstan,

Prosecutor General
Aida Salyanova
Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan
139 Toktonalieva Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan



About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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