Azimjan Askarov appears in a Bishkek court in January 2017. (Azattyk/RFE/RL)
Map of Kyrgyzstan

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has expressed its regret over Saturday’s death of Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in prison.

“Today, we grieve together with Azimjan’s family and all who knew him,” the organization said in a statement.

Askarov, a long-standing partner of ODIHR, had for many years prior to his arrest, documented “police abuse and brutality in his native Kyrgyzstan,” the statement said.

The office had been calling for Askarov’s release since he was first arrested in 2010.

ODIHR and many other observers of his trials in 2010 and 2011, had noted serious violations of “fair trial standards and the failure of the authorities to address the intimidation of defense witnesses and lawyers or follow up on visible signs of torture,” the statement said.

Just two months ago, ODIHR objected the decision of Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to uphold the life sentence imposed on Askarov in 2010.

“It is unfortunate that the Kyrgyz authorities did not use the opportunity open to them to restore justice,” ODIHR said.

ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir had said in a statement in May: “I call on the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to implement the UN Human Rights Committee decision and free Mr. Askarov, in line with the country’s international human rights obligations.”