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Kyrgyz Protesters Demand Free, Fair Elections

5 February 2005 -- About 350 protesters gathered today in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, demanding that parliamentary elections on 27 February be free and fair:

The Kelkel youth organization was among the organizers of the Bishkek rally. Several opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations also took part.

Participants also urged President Askar Akaev not to run in the country's October presidential election. He is currently constitutionally barred from seeking an additional term.

Police prevented protesters from marching to the city's central Victory Square, saying the rally was illegal.

The Bishkek police head, Keneshbek Duishobaev, told RFE/RL that authorities will file an administrative suit against the rally organizers. He said organizers had not received official permission to hold the demonstration.

The head of Kyrgyzstan's Coalition of NGOs for Democracy and Civil Society, Edil Baisalov, argued that authorities were violating the constitutional right of Kyrgyz citizens to hold peaceful rallies.