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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago




[03.09.2OO2] Opposition leader arrested on eve of planned march to capital against Kyrgyz regime

An opposition leader was arrested Tuesday and government officials heightened their anti-opposition rhetoric ahead of a planned protest march to the capital in this former Soviet republic in Central Asia.
 
Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting anti-terrorist troops for operations in nearby Afghanistan, has been wracked by political instability for much of this year. At least five people died in March when police opened fire on a demonstration in the country's south the first political violence since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
 
On Tuesday, Tursunbek Akunov, one of the leaders of a movement seeking the dismissal of President Askar Akayev, was arrested on charges of organizing unsanctioned mass events, said parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov.
 
A protest march from southern Kyrgyzstan to the capital Bishkek is to start in the next couple of days, culminating in a mass demonstration in mid-September.
 
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev called Tuesday for a probe into the funding of the groups staging the march, questioning whether they truly represented the will of the people.
 
"These activities are designed to destabilize the political situation in the country," he said in parliament. "Those who want to climb to power on dead bodies are behind them."
 
President Akayev's entire Cabinet resigned in May in a bid to quell the public's anger. But opposition leaders continue to call for Akayev to step down, and he has since appointed a council that is looking at possible changes to the country's political system.
 
One Constitutional Council member, lawmaker Zainidin Kurmanov, told the ITAR-Tass news agency Tuesday that a possible change might be to greatly reduce the power of the president in favor of a more powerful prime minister chosen by parliament.
 
Kyrgyzstan had once been viewed as the most progressive of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, but Akayev has increasingly clamped down on dissent and free expression.
 
Associated Press, September 3, 2002

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