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Kyrgyz Activists Concerned By Pre-Election Arrests

A protester in front of the White House in Bishkek (RFE/RL) November 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz activists today held a protest in Bishkek calling on officials to respect the right to peaceful assembly ahead of elections scheduled for next month.

Some 20 people attended today's demonstration outside the White House, the main government building.

The protest was staged in response to the arrests of six protesters on November 10 during a peaceful demonstration organized by youth groups in central Bishkek. The protesters were later released, but they are being tried for attending an illegal gathering. Hearings on the case started today.

Tursunbek Akun, the chairman of President Kurmanbek Bakiev's human rights commission, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service today that the detentions were an outrageous move by Kyrgyz security forces.

"Even our commission is saying that the detention of these young men is regarded as an abuse of the freedom of speech," Akun said. "The National Security Committee is toadying to the president, and is doing him a disservice ahead of the parliamentary elections."

Bakiev set December 16 as the date for early parliamentary elections after a new constitution was passed in an October referendum. Kyrgyzstan's new constitution grants the freedom of assembly.

Aziza Abdyrasulova, the head of the Kylym Shamy (Torch of the Century) human-rights center, said rights activists expect an increase in human-rights abuses in the pre-election period.

Gulshaiyr Abdyrasulova, a member of the nongovernmental youth organization Kel-Kel (Path to Revival), told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that when young people demonstrate to defend their rights and interests, authorities respond with force. "Today, the right to freedom of assembly is being violated," she said.

(with material from agency reports)

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