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Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Watch Demands Probe Into Killings

New York, 22 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- An international human rights group today asked Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev to set up an independent investigative commission to look into the killing of at least five protesters shot during demonstrations at the beginning of the week. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Akaev that it expects him to bring to justice those "responsible for any indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force" that might have led to the killings.

Reports say that at least five people were killed on 17 March during a demonstration demanding the release of jailed opposition deputy Azimbek Beknazarov.

Beknazarov is charged with abuse of power while serving as a district prosecutor in the Toktogul district seven years ago. He and his supporters say he was arrested because he criticized the government. Beknazarov was released conditionally two days ago.

Yesterday, Kyrgyz opposition leader Feliks Kulov said he fears the government will use this week's violent protests as an excuse to crack down on political rivals.