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Kyrgyz Report: June 20, 2000

20 June 2000

A nucleus of some 80 people continued their picket in Bishkek from 10-19 June to demand the release of arrested opposition politicians, the annulment iof the forged results of the parliamentary elections in February-March, and the restoration of the right of opposition candidates to be elected to parliament.

Picket participant Farida Tursunbekova told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 10 June that the picleters are concerned about the health of opposition Ar-Namys party leader Feliks Kulov, who began a protest fast in custody on 7 June, and are deamnding a meeting with Kulov. Picketer Kyimat Suranova told RFE/RL that she is ready to burn her Kyrgyz passport because of the contempt shown by the Kyrgyz government for its citizens.

Ar-Namys party member Usen Bootaev told RFE/RL on 10 June that the authorities want to organize a closed trial against Kulov and that their sole aim is to prevent him from the forthcoming presidential elections. According to Bootaev, a closed trial is necessary to hide the fact that there no serious accusations against Kulov.

On 12 June, the 89th day of the ongoing picket, participants gathered in front of the government building, but were forcibly dispersed by police who detained 10 people. The detainees were released four hours later after several of them had been beaten. One of those beaten, Torobek Abdrahmanov, was hospitalized on 14 June with high blood pressure as a result of the beating, but discharghed two days later. He subsequently brought a court case for assault against the police officer who beat him, as did three other victims.

Also on 12 June, a separate group of picketers appealed to the Bishkek city court in a legal case against 23 parliament deputies who published in the 13 April issue of the official newspaper "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" an open letter to members of the U.S. Congress alleging that the picketers are being paid for their protest action. Picketers brought legal action against the deputies on 3 June, but Judge MambetAliyev of the Pervomai district court rejected their action on 9 June, ruling that according to Article 329 of the Criminal-Procedure Code, only an individual, but not a group, has the right to bring such action.

On 15 June, some 60 picket participants signed an open letter to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright saying that only pressure from the U.S. government can defuse tensions in Kyrgyzstan as the country's leadership ignores the opposition and jails its leaders.

On 19 June, picketers told RFE/RL that 7,608 people have already signed a petition addressed to Kyrgyz the authorities demanding Kulov's release.

Lyubov Ivanova, one of Feliks Kulov's lawyers, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 14 June that investigators handed over the ten volumes of material in Kulov's case to the Kyrgyz Military Court the previous day. She said those materials do not contain any serious charges against Kulov.

On 15 June, Ivanova told RFE/RL that Kulov's trial by the Kyrgyz Military Court will begin on 27 June. Military Court deputy chairman Nurlan Ashyrbekov will chair the trial.

A second Kulov lawyer, Nina Zotova, has been ordered to vacate the office space she leases in the building of the Federation of Kyrgyz Trade Unions. She believes that demand is politically motivated.

Zotova has sent several appeals to the Kara-Buura district court of Talas Province demanding that it rule invalid the results of the runoff elections in the Kara-Buura constituency which Kulov contended, but that she has not received any response.

Kulov, who is a former vice president of Kyrgyzstan and chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys Party, collected most of votes in the first round on 20 February, but according to official returns was defeated in the runoff held on 12 March. The opposition says the election results were forged, and Kulov's voters have been holding daily protest pickets in Bishkek since 15 March (see above). Kulov was arrested on 22 March and accused of abuse of power while serving as minister of national security several years ago.

Central Elections Commission department head Aichurek Eshimova told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 15 June that the presidential elections could be set for 29 October. That decision must be taken by the upper parliamentary house, the People's Assembly, which will begin its second session on 27 June. According to Eshimova, the election must be held not later than two months, and date of the elections should be determined not later than four months before the duties of incumbent president expire. Akaev was elected president for a second five-year term in December 1995.

A group of 22 journalists picketed the building of the Djalal-Abad regional court in the town of Djalal-Abad on 19 June to protest the sentence handed down earlier that day by judge Jusup Sulaimanov sentenced on journalist Moldosaly Ibraimov. Ibraimov was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined 100,000 soms (about $2,000) on charges of insulting the judge of the Suzak district court in Djalal-Abad Oblast, Toktosun Kasymbekov. On 8 April, Ibraimov published an article in the local newspaper "Akyikat" (Justice) entitled "Did the Judge Commit a Crime?" In that article, Ibraimov mentioned rmors that Kasymbekov accepted a $15,000 bribe to rule in favor of parliamentary candidate Turdabek Chekiev in his dispute with rival candidate Marat Bakiev. The editorial board "Akyrikat" was also fined100,000-soms.

The Board of the Bishkek City Court on 15 June rejected an appeal by opposition El party chairman Daniyar Usenov and upheld the 10 March ruling against him by the Pervomai district court in Bishkek. That court barred Usenov from contending the 12 March parliamentary runoff elections after his rival in the runoff accused him of failing to declare an apartment he owned in his property declaration. Usenov had polled the largest number of votes during the first round on 20 February. The Bishkek City Court ruled that Usenov's property declaration was legal and valid, but that there is no need to annul the results of the 12 March vote.

Usenov appealed against the 15 June ruling, and the court began reviewing that appeal on 19 June. Usenov also told RFE/RL on 17 June that he has appealed to the Court of Arbitration over the recent Tax Inspection raids in the 11 companies that comprise the Eridan Corporation of which Usenov is the founder and head.

First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev chaired a government meeting in Bishkek on 19 June at which National Social Fund chairwoman Ainura Kypchakbaeva said that Fund owes 96 million soms (about $2 million) in unpaid social allowances for this year. The Fund should pay 209 million soms in social allowances each month.

Deputy Finance Minister Kubat Kanimetov told the meeting that the government owes citizens 125 million soms (about $2.6 million) in back wages for 2000 and an additional 185 million soms (about $3.9 million) for previous years.

Visiting Osh Oblast on 16 June, President Askar Akaev delivered a speech at a meeting devoted to Kyrgyz-Uzbek friendship in which the State Secretary of Kyrgyzstan, the governor of the Kyrgyz Osh Province and the governors of the Andijan, Fergana and Namangan provinces of neighboring Uzbekistan also participated.

The meeting was devoted to the 10th anniversary of the fighting in Osh in June 1990. between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Officially, 238 people were killed during the 10 days of clashes, but unofficial estimates say that about 1,100 people died. Eleven people people were later tried and sentenced to death for their participation in the riots and more than 600 people were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment.

The chairman of the State Commission on Foreign Investments, Urkalyi Isaev, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 16 June that the foreign debt of Kyrgyzstan is now $1.121 billion, of which 14.6 percent are loans taken from the International Monetary Fund, 3.6 percent loans taken in 1993 on unfavorable conditions and the remainder - loans made to Kyrgyz organizations under bilateral agreements.

Isaev added that from now on the government will not be a guarantor for any enterprises or organizations intending to receive loans from abroad.

Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev held a special meeting in Bishkek on 16 June on the development of small business in the country. First Vice Prime Minister Boris Silaev told the meeting that there are now 163,000 registered economic entities, of which 60,000 are farms. More than 150,000 Kyrgyz citizens are engaged in private business, working with individual licenses. According to Silaev, the government has adopted six important decrees in favor of private business in the last two years.

UNICEF representative in Bishkek Ken Mascal told a news conference in Bishkek on 16 June that Kyrgyzstan presented its national report on securing the rights of children at the last session of the UN General Assembly, held late in May. He announced that UNICEF intends to open a shortwave radio station in Bishkek, which will employ only oung people as journalists.

The Public Union of Social Protection of People held a news conference in Bishkek on 16 June at which Union chairwoman Lidia Fomova said that the Channel One of the National Television aired a program on 12 June by journalist Jainagul Maksumova, which defamed the union groundlessly. According to Fomova, the leadership of the National TV and Radio Corporation has refused to accept her protests. The union was formed in 1998 and unites pensioners and other socially disadvantaged people.

International Organization on Migration representative Paul Norton announced in Bishkek on 16 June that about 1,400 women are sent illegally from Kyrgyzstan yearly to foreign countries. According to him, he discussed the problem with Kyrgyz officials hat day.

The London-based Amnesty International on 14 June released its Annual Report 2000, which covers events from January to December 1999. Two pages of the 300-page report are devoted to the human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan.

The report says that "Uzbek law enforcement officers were reported to have frequently entered Kyrgyz territory and to have arbitrarily detained Kyrgyz citizens of ethnic Uzbek origin whom they accused of having links to banned Islamic opposition parties in Uzbekistan. Dozens of ethnic Uzbek men were abducted to Uzbekistan, where they were at serious risk of human rights violations."

"At the end of September 1998, the Ministry of Justice revoked the registration of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR), .... in May [1999], the KCHR was informed that a public association of the same name but under a different chairman had been registered... Following international protests and an intervention by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the KCHR was finally re-registered in August."

"Despite an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press, the independent media continued to be harassed by Kyrgyz authorities, including being sued for libel and tax evasion or other administrative offences. In August tax police raided the offices of the largest independent daily newspaper "Vecherniy Bishkek" (Bishkek Evening News), allegedly without a proper search warrant, and threatened to arrest its editor-in-chief, Aleksandr Kim, whom they accused of tax evasion. This was seen as an attempt by the government to silence any criticism in the run-up to elections. The newspaper had recently published interviews with opposition politicians."

"In March [2000] the US State Department called into question Kyrgyzstan's commitment to democracy after law enforcement officers reportedly used excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations over irregularities in the February and March parliamentary elections. The elections were heavily criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The allegedly politically motivated arrest of Felix Kulov -- the chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys party and former Minister of National Security -- led to further demonstrations and confrontations with law enforcement authorities."

Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev signed a special decree on 15 June on governmental help to victims of natural calamities. According to the governmental press service, 1,117 families could receive 24,000-som (about $500) loans each without interest and for 15 years.

The Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended a summit meeting of the Central Asian Union in Dushanbe on 14 June that focussed primarily on economic problems. The four heads of state agreed to draft a program of strategic economic development till 2005 and approved the program to form a common economic area in Central Asia by 2002.

Kyrgyzstan's Askar Akaev, Tajikistan's Imomali Rahmonov and Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov announced the same day in Dushanbe that situation along the Kyrgyz-Tajik frontier is currently stable and gives no grounds for concern.

At the request of Tajikistan, the presidents appealed to the UN, the OSCE and the Organization of the Islamic Conference expressing their deep concern at the situation in Afghanistan. They also appealed to the international community to resolve the ecological problem posed by the Sarez Lake in Tajikistan.

Tajik President Rahmonov was elected chairman of the Inter-State Council of the Union, replacing Kyrgyz President Akaev. But the presidents failed to agree on who should become chairman of the Council of Defense Ministers.

The Central Asian Union was formed by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan early in 1994. Kyrgyzstan joined in April 1994 and Tajikistan in March 1998.

The summit participants also discussed border issues. Asked at a news conference after the summit about Kazakh and Kyrgyz accusations that Uzbekistan had moved its border signs into their territories, Akaev and Karimov responded as follows:

Akaev: "The process of studying the border issues between our countries and resolving of them is under way now. Special inter-state commissions have been formed. We hope they will receive higher status in the future and I am sure that we will find a fair decision which will suit all the sides."

Karimov: "We exaggerate sometimes, blow up, make insinuations, and so does not only the press in Kyrgyzstan, but some officials too, for example, the state secretary of Kyrgyzstan, I do not know him, he is a former doctor, but now he is the state secretary of Kyrgyzstan. After returning from the United States, he stated that UN experts would be invited to resolve border issues between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan."

"I gave a phone call to President Askar Akaev and asked him about it. He answered that he did not know anything about it but told me that he would take in hand - it was his own word - the state secretary, I cannot remember his name, that it was a hasty statement which could do damage to relations between the two states."

"All the states which are present here, all of us recognize the old administrative borders which existed in the Soviet times and there are practically no border disputes between the states."

Kyrgyzstan's State Secretary Naken Kasiev had announced early in May that some international experts could be invited to settle border issues between the Central Asian states.

Government official Saparbek Baltybekov said in Bishkek on 14 June that Kyrgyzstan owes Uzbekistan $5.04 million for natural gas deliveries, $1.14 million of which must be paid in hard currency. He added that the Uzbek government has not yet responded to a Kyrgyz proposal on cutting gas prices.

Visiting Tashkent on 5-7 June, Vice Premier Esengul OmurAliyev had asked the Uzbek authorities to cut the gas price from $50 per 1,000 cubic meters to $35 and they said they would answer in a week. Kyrgyzstan needs 250 million cubic meters of natural gas between now and the end of the year.

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 4,200 children of school age did not go to school in the 1998-1999 school year because their families are too poor. More than 5,000 children did not attend school this year, but official figures for the 1999-2000 school year will be available only in August . The total number of school-age children in Kyrgyzstan is 1.1 million.

Young deputies elected to the Kyrgyz parliament in February-March announced in Bishkek on 14 June that they have formed a Forum of Youth Leaders. It is not clear, however, how many people are in the Forum and who its leaders are.

On 15 June, the State Commission on Women, Youth and Family Matters announced that the founding conference of a Youth Parliament would take place in Bishkek the following day. The Forum of Youth Leaders will be one of the founders of the Youth Parliament.

An Agriculture and Water Resources Ministry official told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 13 June that there is a real danger that locuts may invade Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Kazakhstan. The main danger is to the northern Talas and Chu oblasts, but Naryn Oblast, which does not border Kazakhstan, is also in danger. The main problem is the lack of pesticides in the country. 24,000 out of 90,000 hectares of arable land in Kyrgyzstan have not yet been treated with pesticides, of which 10,000 hectares are in Naryn Oblast.

The Director of the National Center against Desertion, Kubanychbek Kulov, and Borosh Saiypov of the Agrarian Academy held a news conference in Bishkek on 15 June. According to Saiypov, about half of the one million hectares of land suitable for agriculture in Kyrgyzstan, is under danger of deterioration now. 230,000 hectares are salinated and 5,000 hectares have become eroded.

President Askar Akaev received Michael Davie, a representative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in Bishkek on 13 June. The founding of an industrial-investment bank in Kyrgyzstan, the development of small businesses, and the continuation of micro loans to Kyrgyz citizens were discussed. Since Kyrgyzstan joined the EBRD in June 1992, the bank has given Kyrgyzstan $108 million dollars in aid and $8.5 million in technical loans.

Also on 13 June, Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev received Kunio Senga of the Asian Development Bank to discuss further cooperation between the bank and the Kyrgyz government.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Ismail Cem arrived in Bishkek from Kazakhstan on 13 June. He was scheduled to meet with President Askar Akaev, Prime Minister Amangeldi Muraliev, the speakers of the two chambers of parliament, Altai Borubaev and Abdygany Erkebaev, and with Foreign Minister Muratbek ImanAliyev to discuss bilateral relations.

Presidential administration department head Marat Jamanbaev announced in Bishkek on 13 June that a special government commission has finished assessing the performance of local officials in all seven oblasts of Kyrgyzstan and the 458 local government administrators. No results have been made public, but Jamanbaev said it was found that some local officials are acting independently, without coordinating their actions with the government in Bishkek.

The second and final session of the round table discussion between the Kyrgyz leadership, opposition and non-governmental organizations took place in Bishkek on 12 June. The 12 June discussion was devoted to stabilization of the social-economic situation in the country and needed reforms of the juridical system.

President Askar Akaev, who attended both sessions, told participants on 12 June that proposals by the opposition and non-governmental organizations on how to stabilize the economic and social situations will be included in a complex program of the country's development for 2001-2010. The program is to be drafted by the end of this year.

Akaev also admitted that there were some irregularities in the trials held during and after the recent parliamentary elections. He said the leadership has already taken measures to improve the situation, including dismissing General Prosecutor Asanbek SharshenAliyev on 10 April.

The main opposition parties and non-governmental organizations boycotted the round table to protest the last minute changes in its format. It was originally agreed that nine representatives each from the government, the opposition and non-governmental organizations would take part in it, but the Kyrgyz leadership at last moment extended invitations to participate to all the country's NGOs. The opposition also demanded that a statement be signed on the outcome of the round table, which the government refused to agree to. The OSCE office in Bishkek refused to sponsor the meeting and its representative attended the roundtable only as an observer.

Visiting Tehran on 8-11 June, Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev met with Iranian President Seyed Muhammad Khatami, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi and Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Iran as well as regional security, joint fighting against drug traffic and international terrorism were discussed.

During talks on 9 June, Khatami told Akaev that the newly independent states should settle domestic problems without foreign interference. Akaev called for boosting the activity of the Kyrgyz-Iranian economic commission to improve trade and economic relations.

Agreement was also reached on forming several Kyrgyz-Iranian joint ventures in food processing and producing non-ferrous metals and on opening regular flights on the routes Osh (Kyrgyzstan)-Meshkhed (Iran) and Bishkek-Tehran-Dubai.

Akaev also took part in the sixth summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in Tehran on 10-11 June. The leaders of the 10 member states agreed to build a network of roads linking the member countries and to relax trade barriers between them. Sharing the natural resources of Caspian Sea and resolving the Afghan conflict were also discussed. The leaders of the ECO member states were invited to attend the celebrations devoted to the 3,000th anniversary of the Kyrgyz town of Osh in October.

The head of the Ai-Danek children's foundation, Toktaiym Umetalieva, on 10 June accused the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations, of which Ai-Danek is not a member, of illegal actions and demanded that it reveal its financial sources. According to Umetalieva, the Coalition is financed by the US non-governmental National Democratic Institute (NDI) and some of that money could be embezzled. Umetalieva also accused the NDI of interfering into internal matters of Kyrgyzstan by financing the Coalition.Chairwoman of the NGO Coalition Tolekan Ismailova told RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 10 June that the government is orchestrating the accusations against the Coalition because the Coalition criticized the recent parliamentary elections.

An anonymous official of the National Security Ministry told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 10 June that the security services of neighboring Uzbekistan regularly abduct and jail Kyrgyz citizens. The persons in question are usually ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyz towns and villages close to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek frontier, but the Uzbek security officials never coordinate their actions with their Kyrgyz counterparts. According to an official, Kyrgyz citizen Tursunbai Yuldashbaev, a resident of the Saba village, was abducted about a year ago and is now in an Uzbek prisons. Yuldashbaev was Mufti (head of the Muslim community) of the Bazar-Korgon district of Kyrgyz Jalal-Abad Oblast.

The National Bank announced in Bishkek on 10 June that the World Bank has allotted a new $29 million loan to Kyrgyzstan, of which $20 million will be used for reconstruction of the country's irrigation system. The remaining $9 million will be used for a project on land and real estate registration. The low-interest loan is given for 40 years.

Participants in a government meeting on corruption and economic crimes said on 10 June that thefts of non-ferrous metals in have reached a dangerous level. People steal electricity cables, conductors, and other equipment to sell the non-ferrous and ferrous metals for scrap to 35 authorized organizations. As a result of thefts of electricity conductors and cables, 12 people were electrocuted in Chu Oblast only in the first five months of this year. More than 100 accidents have been registered so far this year nationwide.

The Bishkek city administration on 10 June resumed heating in the multistorey buildings of the city. Heating was stopped on 10 May for maintenance works. In previous years, the interruption usually lasted for several months.