[JURIST] A court in Kyrgyzstan issued the first convictions Wednesday in connection with the June 2010 ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive], handing down prison terms for eight ethnic Uzbeks. The case stems from the murder of a Kyrgyz police officer during the violence, which resulted in the deaths of 309 people, with an additional 2,000 reportedly injured. Judge Nurgazy Alymkulov of the Nooken District Court [GlobaLex backgrounder] sentenced five to life terms [RFE/RL report] on charges of murder, fomenting ethnic hatred, instigating violence and organizing public unrest. Two others were sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the last was sentenced to nine. Among those given life sentences was prominent Uzbek human rights activist Azimjan Askarov. The convictions were later described as politically motivated [Reuters report]. In July, the Kyrgyz government announced that it had opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the violence, and that 106 individuals had been detained, with 97 in custody. Also in July, Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile] established a commission [JURIST report] to investigate the ethnic violence against the country's Uzbek population. It will consult with government and international experts and present its findings on the causes and repercussions of the violence in September.
The convictions come the month before the October 10 parliamentary elections. They will be the first since a new constitution took effect in July after being approved by voters [JURIST reports] in a nationwide referendum. In June, the interim government under Otunbayeva announced the constitutional referendum would occur despite the ethnic violence [JURIST report] in Osh. The constitution was originally approved by the interim government [JURIST report] in May. The June rioting in Osh followed violent protests in the capital city of Bishkek in April that resulted in former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev being removed from office [JURIST report].