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Kyrgyzstan court sentences 19 Uzbeks for murder and mass rioting

A court in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday sentenced 19 ethnic Uzbeks for their involvement in the June 2010 ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that resulted in more than 300 deaths and an additional 2,000 injuries. Seventeen of the Uzbeks received life sentences and two received 25-year sentences for their participation in a June 13 riot [24.kg report] that blocked a major highway and killed 16 people in the Suzak district. The defense lawyers, who work for a local human rights organization and were giving free legal representation to the men, were allegedly threatened [AI report] by relatives of the Kyrgyz victims and told to keep silent during the trial. The trial began in September and had already been postponed due to alleged ethnic violence against the defendants' families. Lawyers for the Uzbek men said that they will appeal the conviction.

In September, a Kyrgyz court issued the first convictions [JURIST report] in connection with the June 2010 riots, handing down prison terms for eight ethnic Uzbeks in a case stemming from the murder of a Kyrgyz police officer during the violence. 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.

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