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Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Politician Arrested In Poland On Drug Charges

Former Kyrgyz parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev (file photo) (RFE/RL) Former speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament Omurbek Tekebaev is being held in Poland after customs officials there found heroin in his baggage. Tekebaev, an outspoken critic of the Kyrgyz government, was on his way to an international economic conference in the Polish town of Krynica when he was apprehended.

PRAGUE, September 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Some 30 members of the Kyrgyz parliament met today to discuss the situation surrounding Orumbek Tekebaev's arrest in Poland. At an emergency session of parliament scheduled for September 8, the group plans to urge the Kyrgyz government to release a statement supporting Tekebaev, called by one Kyrgyz rights activist "a great statesman."

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry released a statement today confirming that Tekebaev was arrested at the airport in Warsaw on September 6. The statement said Polish customs officials found 595 grams of heroin in a "matroshka" (nesting doll) in Tekebaev's luggage. Kyrgyzstan has sent its ambassador in Belarus to Poland to get more information about the matter.

"As a diplomat and a person with diplomatic immunity, if he was carrying narcotics he could have said 'I don't agree to allow you to open my suitcase."

Skeptical About Story

Tekebaev was a co-chairman of the For Reforms movement, which was formed earlier this year. Melis Eshmikanov, a member of parliament and also a member of For Reforms, responded to news of Tekebaev's arrest by saying it was "a provocation" and that the movement is in touch with Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Ministry, National Security Service, and customs service officials.

Another parliamentarian and For Reforms member, Temir Sariev, told journalists that Tekebaev was detained at the Warsaw airport along with Deputy Anatoly Danilov and social activist Zainidin Kurmanov. Sariev said Tekebaev denied there could have been narcotics in his baggage.

Edil Baisalov, the head of the For Democracy and Civil Society coalition, told RFE/RL he believes the situation was arranged by forces in Kyrgyzstan.

"This is a provocation against the leader of the opposition, ex-speaker Tekebaev, organized by the secret service of Kyrgyzstan," Baisalov said. "This provocation is to discredit not only the leader of the opposition, but the whole of the opposition in the eyes of the international community and before the people of Kyrgyzstan."

Baisalov said his group will consult with representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who are based in Kyrgyzstan.

Asiya Sasykbaeva of the nongovrenmental Interbilim movement also said she thinks the drugs must have been planted in his luggage. She said that since Tekebaev carried a diplomatic passport he could have refused to allow to Polish customs officials, but he did not, seemingly showing he was unaware there were any narcotics in his baggage.

Another Blow

"As a diplomat and a person with diplomatic immunity, if he was carrying narcotics he could have said 'I don't agree to allow you to open my suitcase,'" she said. "But he didn't know. And from his three bags the Polish police said, 'Open [only] that suitcase.' Our former speaker said, 'All right, go ahead and open that one.'"

The arrest is the latest blow for Tekebaev this year. He was an outspoken critic of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, who was ousted by protesters in March 2005. As speaker of parliament, Tekebaev continued to criticize the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who succeeded Akaev. But at the start of this year Tekebaev was quoted by local media as calling Bakiev "a dog" and suggesting he "hang himself from the first tree." Under pressure, he resigned in February.

"I would like to ask you to dismiss me from my position as chairman of the Kyrgyz parliament, as I have requested," he said in early February. "My request will be put to vote without a debate to include it into the agenda [of the parliamentary session], then you will decide on what day the vote on the [dismissal] issue will take place."

The head of the president’s human rights commission, Tursunbek Akun, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that a special group from the Foreign Ministry and Prosecutor's Office will travel to Poland on September 8 to try to help Tekebaev.

(RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)

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