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Kyrgyzstan: U.S. Urges Justice For Jailed Opposition Figure

The United States says the recent conviction of Kyrgyz opposition leader Feliks Kulov appears to be politically motivated. The State Department is urging President Askar Akaev, of Kyrgyzstan, to ensure that the Kulov case is reviewed fairly.

Washington, 25 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has called on President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan to ensure that Kyrgyz opposition leader Feliks Kulov receives an unbiased review of his conviction on charges stemming from alleged abuse of power.

The plea was made on January 24 by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in a statement read to reporters. Boucher said: "We call on President Akaev to honor the recent calls for judicial reform and increased protection of human rights in Kyrgyzstan by ensuring that Mr. Kulov receives a fair and impartial review. The United States will continue to follow this case pending the outcome of the appeals process."

Kulov was found guilty Monday of abusing power when he was the country's security minister between 1997 and 1998 and sentenced to seven years in prison. The trial was closed to the public. Kulov's supporters say he was jailed because of his political aspirations. Boucher said:

"The closed nature of these military proceedings, which involves an appeal of charges on which he was originally acquitted, do contravene international human rights standards and make it impossible to judge the fairness of the trial."

Boucher also said the trial proceedings seem to have been politically inspired:

"The charges and the proceedings give every appearance of being politically motivated. We understand that Mr. Kulov will appeal his conviction to a higher court. "

Kulov was found innocent of the same charges in August last year but the national military court ordered the case to be reconsidered.

Akaev pledged to reform the country's judicial system and respect human rights following a meeting in Bishkek last year with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The criticism of the Kulov trial is Washington's latest complaint about democratic standards in Kyrgyzstan.

The United States said last year the country's November presidential election "denied the people of Kyrgyzstan the right to exercise their vote in a free and fair political contest."

Akaev won that controversial election, defeating five relatively unknown opponents after Kulov, the main opposition candidate, was barred from the race.