The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the Kyrgyz Supreme Court’s decision on May 13 rejecting the last appeal of journalist and human rights activist Azimjan Askarov against a life sentence.

Askarov, who has been in prison since 2010, had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of instigating ethnic hatred, inciting disorder and being complicit in the murder of a police officer by a mob after reporting on human rights violations by police and public authorities in his home town Bazar-Kongorn. The trial was tainted by threats against his lawyer and witnesses.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a miscarriage of justice and a blow to press freedom”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “From the beginning the case against Azimjan Askarov was politically motivated and the charges were trumped-up in order to silence a critical voice and suppress press freedom in the country.”

In 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Committee found that Askarov had been “arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured and mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his trial defense”, and called for his release.

The Kyrgyz Supreme Court remained indifferent to international condemnation and outcry calling for journalist’s release, even amid the increased health risk posed by the spread of coronavirus in poor prison conditions.