After a political party that was barred from competing in Kyrgyzstan's upcoming parliamentary elections took its complaint to the president, party officials began to receive ambassadorships and other prestigious appointments. Correspondent Bruce Pannier reports that one party leader refused the honors -- and was promptly arrested.
Prague, 31 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyzstan this week is finishing registration of candidates for next month's elections to parliament, and more than 600 candidates and ten political parties are registered. But the country's second-largest party, El Bei-Bechara, known as El, is not among them.
In November, El was barred from competing because of a minor problem with its party registration. After the party failed to get the decision overturned in court, it met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev in early January to seek his help. That meeting did not result in reversing the ban on the party's registration.
But after the meeting, several El officials were offered high-level government positions. One El leader (Bakyt Beshimov) was named ambassador to India. Another (Miroslav Niyazov) was offered the position of deputy minister of national security.
The party's chairman, however, Daniyar Usenov, did not fare so well. Usenov was reportedly offered his choice of two posts: ambassador to Germany or mayor of a relatively large city (Tokmok). Yet Usenov refused both positions. He was in the hospital at the time, undergoing treatment for a heart condition, but he had still managed to register himself as an independent candidate in the elections.
On January 19, the very day after he refused the government's offer, the El party chairman received a court summons delivered to him in the hospital. That night, police came to the hospital to arrest him. Usenov was to appear in court on assault charges stemming from an incident in 1996. When doctors refused to release him, Interior Ministry guards stationed themselves in his room.
Usenov told Radio Liberty that he believed he was being harassed because of his political activity.
"This action is being done by Colonel Baybosunov, an investigator from the Interior Ministry. His appeal confirmed the summons that Deputy Prosecutor General Mukashev signed. Four years ago, through rumors, they started this case. At the airport Usenov supposedly hit a person in the eye, those were the rumors. On the basis of these rumors, they worked four years and could not prove anything. On Friday they stated there will be a trial, but they did not tell me or my lawyer, they did not send a summons and I work here in Bishkek. On Saturday, [the Elections Commission] registered me as a candidate and I received the certification as a candidate to the Legislative Assembly. "
Around 200 people gathered outside Kyrgyzstan's government building in Bishkek the next day to protest Usenov's arrest. Some of the demonstrators spoke with RFE/RL. A man said:
"The authorities chase after everyone that the people love. This time they arrested [Usenov] and we went out and protested. They should not arrest him."
One elderly woman said Usenov's case reminded her of the days of Stalin.
"We are elderly people. This arrogance looks like 1937, 38. They force back everyone who comes forward, who becomes well-known, they even arrest them."
Daily protests have continued in the week since the arrest.
Legal questions surround the case. Usenov should enjoy immunity from prosecution as a deputy in parliament and also as a candidate for parliament. Furthermore, he was already tried on the assault charge last October, but the case was dismissed when the alleged victim (Kengesh Mukaev) said Usenov had not been involved.
Adakham Madumarov, a parliament deputy and member of the El party, said it seems to violate the laws.
"This violates two laws, the first is the law on status of a deputy of parliament and the second, a politician registered as a candidate to parliament can not be arrested. He (Usenov) is a candidate and he has the status of a deputy."
The deputy prosecutor general, Japar Mukashev, disagreed.
"I should say straight out here that this case for us has no relationship to politics. According to his crime from 1996 the case is legal, has been brought to court and there will be examined."
Against the advice of some of the doctors, Usenov was discharged from the hospital this week and brought immediately to court to face the assault charges. The alleged victim repeated that Usenov had nothing to do with the assault, but the court rejected the victim's testimony.
Usenov became ill in court and had to be brought back to the hospital a few days ago. With just three weeks to go before the February 20 elections, the legal status of the chairman of the second-largest party in Kyrgyzstan is uncertain.
(Naryn Idinov of the Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report.)