Kyrgyz Court Jails Man For Using WhatsApp To 'Incite Ethnic Hatred'

BATKEN, Kyrgyzstan -- A court in Kyrgyzstan's southern region of Batken has sentenced a local man to four years in prison after convicting him of inciting ethnic hatred with posts on the WhatsApp messaging application.

The regional court's spokesman, Askarbek Baimuratov, announced on February 7 that a 30-year-old resident of the Leilek district received the sentence on January 30.

According to Baimuratov, the man from the town of Isfana, whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested in October.

He was charged with posting a video on WhatsApp that showed a brawl between people from "two different ethnic groups" along with a comment calling for the "elimination of an ethnic minority" in the region.

The convicted man's lawyer, Akylbek Osorov, told RFE/RL that his client's sentence was too harsh and would be appealed at a higher court.

According to Osorov, his client did not post the video in question but admitted that he made the comment and had shared it using WhatsApp.

He said a warning from law enforcement would be enough to stop his client from reposting such videos and making such comments in future.

The issue of interethnic relations in Kyrgyzstan's south, where most of the country's ethnic Uzbek minority resides, has been a sensitive matter for decades.

About 450 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, were killed In June 2010 -- and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed -- in violent clashes between Kyrgyz and local Uzbeks in the southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad.