Kyrgyz authorities recently released a prominent opposition leader from prison. But a leading human rights organization says Kyrgyzstan must do much more to prove that it is respecting human rights. RFE/RL's Roland Eggleston reports.
Vienna, 9 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A leading human rights organization, the International Helsinki Federation, said today that Kyrgyzstan has not done enough by releasing opposition leader Feliks Kulov from prison. Kulov was acquitted on Monday of charges of abuse of office stemming from his time as minister for national security in 1997 and 98. Kulov, who is a possible challenger for President Askar Akayev in the October presidential elections, was jailed last spring, after trying unsuccessfully to run for parliament. He is chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys party.
In a statement issued in Vienna today, the International Helsinki Federation said democratic processes in Kyrgyzstan are still weak. The group's chairman, Aaron Rhodes, noted that other defendants in the same trial received sentences that were inconsistent with human rights norms and the standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Kyrgyzstan is a member of the OSCE:
In Rhodes's words: "Feliks Kulov was helped by the active intervention of the international community, but others were unjustly convicted."
Kulov's co-defendant, Djanybek Bakhchiev, who formerly headed the anti-terror unit within the National Security Ministry, was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.
Two other former ministry employees, Tokonoev and Sheshekeev, received sentences of five years in jail. The International Helsinki Federation described them as innocent citizens who had become involved in a political intrigue only because they once worked in a unit group formed by Kulov.
The International Helsinki Federation protested against the continued detention of Emil Aliev, a top member of Kulov's Ar-Namys party. He was detained five months ago. Aliyev headed the election campaign for Kulov in the parliamentary elections last February. The elections were criticized by international observers as unfair and biased against opposition parties.
IHF chairman Rhodes said the organization is also concerned at a number of other actions against the democratic opposition in recent weeks.
"We fear that all these attacks are aimed at intimidating Kyrgyz society before the presidential elections in October," he said.
Rhodes noted that the chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, Ramazan Dyryldaev, and committee member Gulhan Borubaeva, were under self-imposed exile because they feared arrest. And he also criticized the recent statement by the justice minister (Beishenalieva) that a coalition of NGO parties was not legitimate.
Rhodes said that the authorities are trying to prevent domestic independent observers from monitoring the October presidential elections.
The International Helsinki Federation said Kyrgyzstan is lagging in its implementations of the human rights commitments it made when it joined the OSCE. It urged the government to cooperate with the OSCE and with civil society organizations to build democratic processes.