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Kyrgyzstan: Kulov Supporters Begin Hunger Strike

Bishkek, 8 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Seven supporters of jailed Kyrgyz opposition leader Feliks Kulov started a hunger strike today, demanding Kulov be released from jail and all charges against him be dropped. Tursunbek Akunov, the chairman of the Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan, was one of those participating in the hunger strike. Akunov said the group was convinced of Kulov's innocence and demanded his complete acquittal.

Kulov has been in jail since January 2001 after being found guilty of abuse of power while he served as national security minister and earlier as governor of Kyrgyzstan's northern Chui Oblast.

Kulov has always maintained the charges against him were politically motivated and that investigations into his actions began only after he publicly announced his opposition to Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev.

The Bishkek court where the hunger strikers are staging their action is in the process of hearing Kulov's appeal.

Meanwhile, in the southern Djalalabad Oblast, an unsanctioned rally was held today in support of the former head of Aksy Raion. Shermamat Osmonov is charged with ordering police to fire on demonstrators in Aksy last March. At least five people were killed.

Several hundred demonstrators were today demanding that charges against Osmonov be dropped, saying that Osmonov only acted on orders he received from people higher up in the government.

Southern Kyrgyzstan has been tense since the events of March and today's protest was only the most recent of many demonstrations held since then. The Kyrgyz government has alternated between saying the demonstrators are leading the country into civil war and promising that their grievances would be properly addressed.