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SOKULUK, Kyrgyzstan -- Four Kyrgyz policemen have gone on trial in connection with the death of a Russian citizen, in a highly-charged case that has sparked protests by the officers' supporters, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The four are charged with torture, abuse of office, and extortion in connection with the August death in southern Jalal-Abad of Usmanjan (aka Dadamirza) Kholmirzaev, an ethnic Uzbek and Russian citizen.

Kholmirzaev died in a hospital on August 9, two days after being questioned by Bazar-Korgon district police about the deadly clashes between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in June last year.

The autopsy report said Kholmirzaev died of serious injuries, namely fractured ribs and damage to his internal organs.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General in August acknowledged that Kholmirzaev had been beaten by local police.

Although the incident occurred in southern Kyrgyzstan, local officials decided for "security reasons" to hold the four policemen in a pretrial detention center in the northern town of Sokuluk and try them there.

That decision sparked three large-scale protests in Bazar-Korgon. The most recent was on October 18, when some 200 protesters blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway demanding that the four men be released and that the trial be held in their home town.

RFE/RL's correspondent reported from the courtroom on October 19 that several witnesses, all of them police officers, testified that the four defendants had nothing to do with Kholmirzaev's beating.

There was also a heated exchange in the courtroom between the victim's relatives and supporters of the four accused.

Read more in Kyrgyz here