Prague, 15 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- There were further public protests today in Kyrgyzstan, where demonstrators are demanding the resignation of President Askar Akaev.
For the third day, officials say about 1,000 people blocked the country's main road linking the capital, Bishkek, to the southern city of Osh. Participants say around 6,000 picketers and 350 vehicles were involved in the protest. Some 1,500 people are also reported to have protested today in the southern Aksy Raion.
Three of 19 demonstrators ended hunger strikes today in the capital.
The demonstrators are demanding an end to the criminal case against parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov and the release of opposition leader Feliks Kulov. Both men face charges that supporters say are politically motivated.
Last week, a court in Bishkek sentenced Kulov to 10 years in prison for embezzlement while governor of the Chu region from 1994 to 1997 and while mayor of Bishkek in 1998 and 1999.
Kulov was already serving a seven-year jail term after being convicted in January 2001 of abuse of power during his tenure as head of the National Security Ministry. The court ruled that the two sentences should run concurrently.
Some 50 to 100 demonstrators also protested today in front of the Parliament building in Bishkek against a proposed agreement ceding some 95,000 hectares of Kyrgyz land to China. The settlement yesterday failed to win approval in the upper house of Parliament.
Akaev adviser Bolot Januzakov told RFE/RL today that the People's Assembly, the upper house of the Kyrgyz Parliament, has not rejected the territorial settlement with China, only postponed its decision. He said the People's Assembly will reconsider the measure soon.
"The deputies have not rejected the agreement but have decided to postpone it. Three deputies voted against and 21 in favor. According to the law, 23 deputies must vote [in favor or against]. So this does not mean that they have rejected the agreement," Januzakov said.
The demonstrators are also demanding that those responsible for six deaths during unrest in the Aksy Raion on 18 March be punished. In that incident, protesters upset over Beknazarov's arrest clashed with police. Six people died and dozens were injured. Beknazarov was released from detention in March and ordered not to leave Kyrgyzstan. He is accused of abuse of power during his work as prosecutor in the southern Jalalabad region.
In another development, the director of the human-rights bureau of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Gerard Stoudmann, met today with the chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament and opposition deputies.
(Ainura Asankojoeva of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)