was an ethnic Uzbek Kyrgyzstani political activist who founded the group Vozduh in 2002 to investigate police brutality. During the 2010 South Kyrgyzstan ethnic clashes, which primarily targeted people of the Uzbek nationality, Askarov worked to document the violence.
He was subsequently arrested and prosecuted on charges of creating mass disturbances, incitement of ethnic hatred, and complicity in murder. Following a trial protested by several international human rights groups for irregularities—including alleged torture and the courtroom intimidation of witnesses by police—Askarov was given a life sentence, which he was serving. In November 2010, Askarov's health was reported to be rapidly deteriorating as a result of his confinement. Numerous groups advocated on his behalf, including Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, People In Need, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Amnesty International, the latter of which designated him a prisoner of conscience.
In 2015, the U.S. conferred the 2014 Human Rights Defender Award on Askarov. The Kyrgyz government protested this decision and formally terminated a 1993 agreement on cooperation between the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan. On 12 July 2016, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan revoked the life sentence against Askarov and sent his case to the Chui Oblast Court for review. He was resentenced for life on 24 January 2017. Following amendments to Kyrgyzstan's Criminal Code in 2017, which came into force in 2019, Askarov's lawyers applied for a review of his sentence. However, on 30 July 2019, the Chui regional court upheld the life sentence of Askarov. He died in prison in July 2020.
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