Responding to the news that the Kyrgyzstani authorities are charging 27 activists who protested against a border agreement with Uzbekistan with “attempting to overthrow the government”, Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Central Asia, said:
“It is absurd that these individuals are being tried on the trumped-up charge of attempting to overthrow the state. The activists and politicians facing prosecution are being unjustly penalized merely for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.”
“The many procedural violations that have marred this case speak to the fact that these accusations are politically motivated and designed to stifle state critics. Precious little evidence has been presented to support the charges, besides emails, text messages and social media posts expressing legitimate dissent and calling for peaceful assemblies.
The many procedural violations that have marred this case speak to the fact that these accusations are politically motivated and designed to stifle state critics.Heather McGill, Researcher on Central Asia, Amnesty International
“Criticizing government policies and decision-making is not a crime. The Kyrgyzstani government should ensure that independent voices are allowed in the arena of public debate. The authorities must drop all unsubstantiated charges against these unfairly detained protesters and immediately release them.”
In October 2022, over 20 civil society activists and politicians, including prominent journalist Aydanbek Akmatov, were arrested. The arrests came as the authorities were finalizing a border agreement with Uzbekistan that would cede control of the Kempir-Abad (Andizhan) reservoir to Uzbekistan.
The defendants had called for a public assembly in Uzgen, a town located near the border of Uzbekistan, and formed a committee to oppose the agreement and demand transparency.
The defendants were initially detained on charges of organizing mass disorder (despite no evidence having been presented that they had anything other than peaceful intentions). They are now being charged with attempting to violently overthrow the government, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.
While some of the defendants have been released and placed under house arrest, 17 of them are still being held in abysmal conditions in a pretrial detention centre in Bishkek. Moreover, several of these detainees suffer from serious health issues, including human rights defender Rita Karasartova who is battling grave health problems.