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Kyrgyzstan: Demonstrators Protest Opposition Leader's Sentence

Prague, 22 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Demonstrators rallied today in Bishkek in protest against the sentencing of a Kyrgyz opposition leader earlier this month.

Topchubek Turgunaliev, leader of the opposition Erkin Kyrgyzstan party and co-chairman of the opposition movement For Deliverance from Poverty, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on January 8.

About 30 people gathered today in front of the government building in Bishkek to protest the sentence. A petition, addressed to President Askar Akayev, was handed in. Later the demonstrators picketed the building of the Supreme Court, where another petition was handed in.

TurgunAliyev was accused of embezzlement but the opposition says his trial was politically motivated. The Helsinki-based Human Rights Watch group has called on President Akayev and the Kyrgyz Supreme Court to overturn the sentence.