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Kyrgyzstan: Twelve People Taken Hostage In Protests

Bishkek, 19 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Residents of the southern Djalalabad Oblast of Kyrgyzstan last night took 12 people hostage, including local officials, to protest the arrest and trial of parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov. Our correspondent in Bishkek says that eight of the people taken hostage are district officials and four are drivers. More than a thousand people of Kara-Suu village are keeping the hostages locked in a building and demanding the release from jail of Beknazarov.

The hostages include the head of the Aksy district administration, his deputy, the head of the district police department, and also the head of the education department of the district.

Some parents are keeping their children at home in protest against the arrest of Beknazarov. Kara-Suu is the home village of Beknazarov.

Beknazarov is accused of abusing his powers by failing to file criminal charges in connection with a 1995 slaying while he worked for the district prosecutor's office. But supporters say Beknazarov has been targeted because he strongly criticized the government and President Askar Akaev last year.

Almost 300 people are on hunger strike throughout Kyrgyzstan in support of Beknazarov.