The Supreme Court in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan has sent the case of an ethnic Uzbek journalist and activist serving a life sentence after being convicted of stirring up ethnic hatred to a regional court for further investigation.

International rights groups consider Azimzhan Askarov a prisoner of conscience and the U.N. Human Rights Committee has recently urged Kyrgyzstan to release him.

After opening the hearings on Monday the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a defense plea and sent Askarov's case back to a regional court for further investigation.

Charges against Askarov relate to the 2010 massacre in the south of Kyrgyzstan when more than 450 people, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, were killed and tens or even hundreds of thousands were displaced by the unrest.