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Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Deputies Say Their Offices Are Bugged

In Kyrgyzstan, several opposition members of parliament claim to have found listening devices hidden in their offices. The security service and the government have denied any involvement, leaving open the question whether the bugs are genuine and, if so, who planted them.

Prague, 15 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The Kyrgyz government was bracing itself today in the face of a new scandal. A regularly scheduled session of parliament altered its agenda to first discuss the events of yesterday, when several opposition members in parliament claimed to find hidden listening devices placed in their offices.

The deputies are well-known. Ismail Isakov is a former first deputy defense minister and a long-time opponent of Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev. Ishenbai Kadyrbekov is a deputy leader in the Communist Party, the largest political party in Kyrgzyzstan. Omurbek Tekebaev is the leader of one of Kyrgyzstan's oldest opposition parties -- Ata-Meken, the Fatherland Party. And Azimbek Beknazarov is the man whose arrest two years ago sparked a wave of protests that left five people dead and brought down the government of then Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev.

"This is an immoral act by the authorities against their political opponents..."
Today, another listening device was found in the office of opposition Deputy Adakhan Madumarov.

The speaker of Kyrgyzstan's legislative assembly, Abdygany Erkebaev, said in parliament today that he was shocked when he heard the news.

"When I first heard about that then when I first saw these [bugs] I said immediately that this action is against the constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and against the law on the statute of the deputies of both legislative assembly and people's representative assembly of the Kyrgyz Parliament. This is against human rights. I strongly condemn such actions," Erkebaev said.

Ata-Meken leader Tekebaev yesterday called the discovery a severe violation of the law and blamed authorities for putting the listening devices in his office.

"I believe that the attempt to control the activities of the lawmakers and to listen to them in secret is a severe violation the law. This is an immoral act by the authorities against their political opponents in order to have some kinds of incriminating evidence against them," Tekebaev said.

The country's security service, the SNB, has said it is not responsible. SNB chief Kalyk Imankulov denied his service had anything to do with the bugs and suggested they could have been planted there to cause a scandal.

"It is possible that it was done by some officers in the law enforcement bodies, it is possible that it was done by security services of another country, and if we consider all the possible versions you can guess that it was done also by other structures which are interested," he said. "It is possible that they had some kind of private interest in that. It is possible as I told you before, but I can not tell you for sure, that some of the lawmakers did it themselves. This is possible that it was a kind of provocation. Anything is possible, but let's first investigate it. And in this case, let everyone responsible be held accountable for what they did, but not for baseless accusations," Imankulov said.

Imankulov's deputy, Boris Poluektov, was quoted yesterday as calling the discovery of the listening devices a publicity stunt ahead of parliamentary elections a year from now.

First Deputy Prime Minister Kurmanbek Osmonov did not go that far at a news conference today, but he did say he doubted any government body was responsible for the eavesdropping.

"The current government and the structure of the government are absolutely not interested in doing such things. I can say with conviction that this is not an action done by our governmental bodies, this is not an action by our security services. Yesterday, we saw these so-called listening devices they found and they did not look like, this is my personal opinion, the latest listening devices," Osmonov said.

Isakov went further yesterday in his accusations against whoever planted the listening devices. Isakov was the first deputy to find one of the bugs and was led, so he said, to the place it was hidden by a strange smell he had noticed for some time. Isakov traced the source of the smell to a mysterious pipe behind a panel in his office.

"[The discovery of listening devices] is a difficult issue and besides that today we searched my office and found some small pipes. As I already said, there was smell in my office and I think this pipe was designed to emit some harmful gas, because usually in the morning there is a very strong smell and it is hard to breathe," Isakov said.

SNB chief Imankulov also denied any connection to the mysterious pipe. "The SNB did not have and does not have any techniques for gas or powder which would temporarily incapacitate a person or slowly kill him as [Isakov] has said. We are not a terrorist organization or group of killers," Imankulov said.

The parliament will continue to discuss the issue of the mystery listening devices on 16 January.

(Tynchtykbek Tchoroev of the Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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