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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[28.06.2OO2] Kyrgyzstan amnesty fails to defuse tensions. By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, June 28 (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan freed jailed opposition protesters and policemen in an amnesty on Friday aimed at defusing a political crisis following bloody clashes, but government opponents only sneered at the gesture.
New prime minister Nikolai Tanayev, whose government says the Central Asian state could slide into civil war, urged deputies in parliament's upper house to absolve both sides involved in the violence in March from blame.
As deputies voted in support of the amnesty, a court in the south quashed the conviction of opposition deputy Azimbek Beknazarov whose arrest on charges of abuse of office in a previous job triggered the present crisis.
But the opposition quickly denounced the amnesty as a sham.
"If this (amnesty) law is adopted, it will breed only instability rather than stabilise the situation," opposition deputy Adakham Madumarov said during debates before the vote.
"By this law you will absolve those who shot at people," he added. "It (the amnesty) protects only officials. Those voting to absolve policemen will be cursed."
Thousands of opposition supporters have been demonstrating in the rebellious south and calling on veteran President Askar Akayev to resign in the country's worst political crisis since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kyrgyzstan's small but strident opposition has been demanding that those guilty of the deaths of five civilians in the March clashes with police be punished.
The amnesty law frees several jailed opposition supporters who clashed with police and set a local police station on fire, as well as several policemen charged with shooting at civilians.
It also quashes all criminal and administrative proceedings against protesters and police stemming from the clashes.
The old government fell in May after Akayev publicly acknowledged senior officials were to blame for the civilian deaths at the hands of police. The opposition blocked a vital north-south motorway in protest.
Akayev later invited the opposition to join the new cabinet, which he saw as a coalition of major political forces. But his opponents only toughened their stance by calling for him to step down.
The current crisis was triggered at the start of this year by the arrest of Beknazarov, then a little known figure who quickly became a standard bearer for the opposition.
He was sentenced to a year in prison last month but immediately released. His supporters however have held new rallies, demanding his full acquittal.
Reuters, June 28, 2002

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