Prominent Uzbek rights activist speaks in support of jailed Kyrgyz counterpart

Human rights activists Elena Urlayeva and Shukhrat Rustamov near the Kyrgyz embassy in Uzbekistan.
Members of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan on 16 May staged an action outside the embassy of Kyrgyzstan, demanding the release of human rights activist Azimjon Askarov, but the embassy even refused to accept their written statement.

“We timed this action to Azimjon Askarov’s birthday which is 17 May,” the leader of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (HRAU), Elena Urlayeva, has said.

Human rights activists wanted to remind the Kyrgyz government that their colleague’s imprisonment for life was unjust as his accusation of involvement in the June 2010 popular unrest in the south of Kyrgyzstan had been trumped up.

Urlayeva came to the Kyrgyz embassy in Uzbekistan with another HRAU member, Shukhrat Rustamov, on 16 May at about 1700.

“Two embassy representatives came out and one of them told us that his family name was Karimov, while the other one did not introduce himself at all,” Urlayeva said.

The unidentified embassy employee said that the ambassador was not in the office and they would not receive handwritten statements but ones typewritten on a computer.

“But Karimov clarified that Askarov was sentenced lawfully, and even if we submit a statement typewritten on a computer, they would not receive it in any case,” Urlayeva said.

After this, the human rights activists were asked urgently to go home.

Human rights activist Azimjon Askarov answering judge’s questions. Nooken, 6 September 2010; photo by
“I think that the embassy employees violated their official duties,” Urlayeva said.

Specifically, she said, they were supposed to accept the statement in any case and had no right to answer on behalf of the ambassador to whom the human rights activist addressed.

“I wanted to stage a picket outside the embassy but Shukhrat dissuaded me from this, recalling last year’s HRAU action which ended in brutal punishment,” Urlayeva said.

“Then I was beaten up by the head of the Kyrgyz embassy security department, Normurad Berdimuradov, and two policemen could barely drag him away from me,” Urlayeva recalled.

She said that despite the Kyrgyz authorities’ negative attitude towards any attempts to defend human rights activist Askarov, the HRAU will keep demanding his release all the same.

The Kyrgyz embassy refused to accept the statement demanding Azimjon Askarov’s case be reconsidered
“I have known Azimjon for many years: he is a very modest and simple man but, at the same time, he is a real fighter for human rights,” Urlayeva said.

Askarov consistently spoke out in support of the union of human rights activists in Central Asia, which did not appeal to many, Urlayeva went on, especially his colleagues from Kyrgyzstan. In her view, this was one of the main reasons for his conviction.

HRAU members have asked to say happy birthday to Azimjon Askarov and wish him strength of spirit and speedy release.