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Kyrgyz Opposition Says Pressured Ahead Of Poll

Alikbek Jekshenkulov

Alikbek Jekshenkulov

BISHKEK (Reuters) -- Kyrgyzstan's opposition has accused the government of clamping down on rivals to the president ahead of elections after police detained one of their leaders in a murder investigation.

Kyrgyzstan may hold presidential elections later this year, depending on a ruling yet to be made by the Central Asian state's Constitutional Court. On March 9, police detained opposition politician Alikbek Jekshenkulov in a murder probe.

"The presidential campaign has already begun," Topchubek Turgunaliev, another opposition politician, told reporters. "There are political motives behind these things."

The Interior Ministry said Jekshenkulov's detention had nothing to do with politics.

"There are no political undertones," ministry official Eshmurat Azimzhanov told a briefing. "A grave crime has been committed. An impartial investigation is being carried out."

Police said on March 9 that Jekshenkulov's gun had been used to shoot Turkish businessman Servet Cetin in 2007. His colleagues have denied his involvement with the crime. Jekshenkulov is due to be charged on March 11.

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, has been volatile since 2005, when mass riots triggered by a flawed parliamentary election forced former leader Askar Akaev to flee the country. President Kurmanbek Bakiev came to power as a result of the 2005 events.

Since the 2005 elections were held out of schedule, it is unclear whether the next poll should take place this year or in 2010. Bakiev, who plans to run, has asked the Constitutional Court to make a ruling on the issue.