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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[05.09.2OO2] Kyrgyz officials say they wont stop opposition march, but hope to prevent violence

As opposition activists prepared to march from southern Kyrgyzstan to the capital, Bishkek, to demand the president's resignation, law enforcement officials said Thursday that they did not intend to stop them and only hoped to prevent the demonstration from turning violent.
About 500 people had gathered as of Thursday morning on the road outside Tash-Kumyr, where activists from several southern cities have been converging ahead of the march, participants said by telephone. They said all the roads around them were blocked by police and that they would wait for more activists to arrive before attempting to break the police cordons, most likely on Friday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Dzholdoshbek Buzurmankulov said in Bishkek that authorities feared the marchers would disrupt traffic on the Osh-Bishkek road, the country's main north-south highway, and suggested they drive instead. However, he said the police did not intend to disrupt the protest.
"The task of stopping the march has not been put before the Interior Ministry," Buzurmankulov said. "If they decide to drive to Bishkek, the traffic police will accompany them in order to prevent accidents and other problems."
Authorities fear a repeat of events in March when protesters in the southern Aksy district clashed with police, leaving at least five dead. Buzurmankulov said police were unfairly blamed for that clash the worst political violence in the country's post-Soviet history.
"After the Aksy events, we are all under the pressure of the Aksy syndrome: Any lawful demands made by the police can be answered in any way one wants, but not obeyed," he said.
Kalyk Imankulov, chairman of the National Security Service, said there were no special instructions about the march. "Our task is always not to allow riots, which could be taken advantage of by other forces," he said at a news conference.
By "other forces" he meant Islamic extremists, who he said could use "social and political instability" created by the opposition.
Meanwhile, two activists were arrested for a clash with police that broke out during a June picket in Tash-Kumyr, Buzurankulov said. A total of seven participants in the June demonstration have been charged.
Also Thursday, the cousin of opposition leader Tursunbek Akunov, who claimed he was lured from his home and put in a car by security agents before managing to escape, denied the account.
Akunov had said his cousin, police official Aziz Musabekov, had been the one to lure him out of his home. But Musabekov said he offered to take Akunov, who was ill, home to Bishkek for medical treatment. He accepted the ride and was driven home, Musabekov said.
By Elena Listvennaya, Associated Press, September 5, 2002

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