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Kyrgyzstan: Attack On NGO Leader Highlights Climate Of Fear

  • Bruce Pannier

Baisalov recovering in a Bishkek hospital on April 13 (Courtesy Photo) Are political opponents trying to kill one of Kyrgyzstan's most outspoken civic leaders? That's the question on many people's minds after an attack overnight on Edil Baisalov, leader of the NGO-umbrella group "For Democracy and Civil Society." Baisalov's public targeting of criminal elements in the government have made him powerful enemies that are being blamed for last night's attack. RFE/RL examines contradictory reports about the attack itself and the climate of fear in his fragile Central Asian democracy.

PRAGUE, April 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Physicians treating Baisalov have refrained from saying whether he was shot -- as eyewitness accounts have suggested -- or struck in the head with a rock or other object.

But Health Ministry officials said today that Baisalov is in stable condition at a Bishkek hospital, where he'll remain for a week.

Speaking this morning, he told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that he thinks he was hit with a stone. Baisalov described what he remembers after leaving the offices of his For Democracy and Civil Society coalition.

"I was coming out of the office and crossing a street toward our car on the other side of the street," Baisalov said. "Suddenly, it felt like somebody hit me from behind. I lost consciousness for an instant but didn't fall down. Then I saw someone fleeing. Then I started bleeding profusely. Then [some ethnic] Russians came and started to help me. I told them, 'Somebody hit me.' And they told me, 'No, no one hit you, they shot you with some kind of popgun ["khlopushka"].'"

Political allies are assuming that the attack was politically motivated. After all, Baisalov helped organize a public rally in the capital on Saturday (April 8) urging that criminals be barred from participation in government. The very next day, a reputed crime boss currently under investigation for murder won a parliamentary by-election.

Baisalov's deputy, Jyrgalbek Turdukojoev, told RFE/RL that For Democracy and Civil Society thinks the attack was prompted by such efforts to combat organized crime. "We believe that this happened because of Edil Baisalov's very strong political activity," Turdukojoev said.

Prime Minister Feliks Kulov has been one of the loudest voices condemning criminal infiltration into government and state institutions. Within hours of the attack, Kulov had suggested it was meant to intimidate activists and the broader public:

"The people who are trying to do things like this -- their aim is not just simply to kill but [also] to create fear," Kulov said. "[For them] the outcome was not important, whether they killed or not. What was important was to create fear."

The Ar-Namys party -- which Kulov founded but has since left -- released a statement today warning that "crime has become virtually a branch of state power" and suggesting Kyrgyzstan's current leadership is "completely helpless" to combat it.

Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Subanaliev today insisted that organized crime's fingerprints were all over the Baisalov attack.

"The chance of a third party's involvement is negligible because Edil Baisalov really [spoke out] against criminality," Subanaliev said. "He was outstanding regarding latest developments in Kyrgyzstan [in the fight against organized crime]."

Lawmaker Melis Eshimkanov said Baisalov told him one day before the attack that he feared he was being followed.

"Just yesterday I spoke with Edil [Baisalov] and he said that in the last few days, he felt someone was constantly watching him and his car was always being followed by several vehicles," Eshimkanov said. "He asked us for help with security. Deputy Kubatbek Baibolov and I asked the Interior Ministry today about this, but the matter still hadn't been decided."

Three members of parliament were killed in separate incidents last year -- along with a number of local officials and businessmen.

Baisalov has vowed not to be deterred from continuing his work, however. And his group is planning a new rally against criminal influence in politics for April 29.

(Tynchtykbek Tchoroev of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)
The Tulip Revolution


ONE YEAR AGO: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's archive of coverage of Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution from the beginning, including biographical sketches of the key players and photo galleries of the demonstrations.

See RFE/RL's special review of the March 2005 Kyrgyz events:

Questions Remain About March 24 'Revolution' (Part I)

Did Revolution Sow The Seeds Of Democracy? (Part II)

Was 'Revolution' A Worthy Successor To Rose And Orange? (Part III)

See also:

Reporter's Notebook -- Witness To The Uprising

THE COMPLETE KYRGYZSTAN: To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Kyrgyzstan, click here.

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