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Kyrgyz Report: April 5, 2000

5 April 2000

About 100 people continued a protest picket in the center of Bishkek on 4 April. They began the pickets on 15 March and demand to release arrested Felix Kulov and to annul the forged results of the last parliamentary elections.

Some participants of the pickets began on the square a protest hunger strike on 25 March and more and more people join the action. However, three hunger strikers have already been hospitalized due to worsening of their health. Seitaly Atagaliev, who joined the hunger strike on 27 March, was hospitalized today. The two other hunger strikers were hospitalized on 30 March (Janyl Toktogulova) and 1 April (Chynara Altymyshbaeva). Total number of people, joined the action is 17 and 14 of them continue their hunger strike of the square.

Several members of the Bishkek City Assembly met with the protesters in Bishkek today asking them to stop picket.

An official of the Ar-Namys Party met with picketers in Bishkek on 4 April and read out a short letter from Kulov to them. Kulov wrote it in custody on 31 March and the party received it on 3 April. Kulov says in the letter that the people action to support him touched him very much but they should keep in mind that hunger strike is dangerous for health. However, he himself is continuing his hunger strike, begun on 24 March, and says, "it is the other matter".

Kulov, chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys Party, was arrested in a Bishkek hospital on 22 March. He is accused of authority abuse whwn occupied high ranked posts several years ago. He ran for parliament as independent and collected most of votes in the first round on 20 February, but was announced lost in runoffs on 12 March. Suspicious results of the elections caused protest pickets in several cities of the country.

The Kyrgyz Commitee for Human Rights (KCHR) circulated today text of a letter by US State Secretary Madeleine Albright to Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, being sent via diplomatic channels. Albright says in the letter: "I would like to maximally use this visit to support the progress of economic reforms and democracy in Kyrgyzstan and to hear from you personally concerns in the sphere of security and the ways of intensifying of our cooperation on these issues".

Madeleine Albright will pay one-day visit to Kyrgyzstan on 17 April and will meet with President Askar Akayev and other state officials. According to Ibraimov, the US State Secretary wants to meet representatives of the Kyrgyz non-governmental organizations and students too.

Oleg Bogloevsky, an aide to Felix Kulov, told RFE/RL by phone from Moscow on 4 April that the Russian State Duma intends to discuss on the following day at its plenary session the case of Felix Kulov. One of the initiators of the discussion is Vice Speaker Vladimir Lukin. According to Bogloevsky, Lukin said that if the election ends with arrests its is not fair election. Several factions in the Duma are expected to support a resolution condemning actions of Kyrgyz authorities against opposition.

Also, according to Bogloevsky, Kyrgyz authorities charge Kulov with more and more accusations and try to make him a scapegoat for the all shortcomings in the country in recent years. The case could be considered at a military court behind closed doors.

Bogloevsky also confirmed that Lubov Ivanova, lawyer to Kulov, had to make a written statement that she would not release any information on her meetings and discussions with Kulov.

Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center on Journalism in Extreme Situations at the Russian Union of Journalists, told RFE/RL by phone from Moscow on 4 April that a meeting on situation in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Belarus was held in Moscow the same day. Panfilov, Lyudmila Alexeeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Valentin Gefter of the Human Rights Institute held it.

Participants of the meeting expressed a deep concern about the arrest of Felix Krulov. According to Panfilov, Kyrgyzstan is entering an unfavorable phase due to persecution of the all opponents of President Askar Asayev and agony of democracy has begun in Kyrgyzstan with the arrest of Kulov.

Omurbek Subanaliev, member of the Ar-Namys Party political council, confirmed RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 4 April that the Russian ORT and RTR television networks recorded an interview with Felix Kulov in the detention cell on 3 April. However, according to Subanaliev, they intend to use the interview for a special program on violations of laws by Kulov, when he occupied high ranked posts in Kyrgyzstan. That is why the interview has not been aired yet.

Kulov was vice president of Kyrgyzstan early in the 1990s and resigned in December 1993, protesting corruption in the government. After it, Kulov served as governor of the Chu Province, minister of national security, mayor of Bishkek. He resigned in April 1999, sending Akayev an open letter with condemnation of his undemocratic rule.

President Askar Akayev and Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev attended a meeting at the Ala-Archa cemetery in Bishkek, devoted to former Prime Minister Jumabek Ibraimov. A statue to Ibraimov was erected on his grave. Also, a memorial plaque was put on the wall of his house in Bishkek on the same day.

Jumabek Ibraimov was appointed Kyrgyz prime minister on 25 December 1998 and died a year ago, on 4 April 1999, from stomach cancer at 55.

Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev received in Bishkek on 4 April several leaders of the Kyrgyz-German tobacco joint venture.

A new cigarette plant constructed by the German Reentsmaa Company was opened in Bishkek on 31 March. It will produce this year 3,170 million cigarettes worth 988 million soms (about $20 million) paying 130-million-som taxes. In the future, the plant will produce about 8,000 million cigarettes yearly.

Joint venture between the Reentsmaa and the Kyrgyz governmental Kyrgyztamekisi Company was set up in 1998. The Reenstmaa invested about $34 million in the project since. 96 percent of the joint venture shares belong to the Reentsmaa.

Department head of the National Bank Marles Duishegulov announced in Bishkek on 4 April that the new business projects, financed by the National Bank and its affiliates must go under international audit before their adoption. According to him, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have given through Kyrgyz National Bank more than $13 million for 45 different projects in Kyrgyzstan since 1995. But it appears now that some those projects were bad ones.

According to the governmental press service, Prime Minister Amangeldi MurAliyev has signed a decree on working out a special national program on fight against poverty in the country in 2001-2003. Finance Minister Sultan Mederov has been appointed coordinator of the project.

A special governmental program on fighting poverty in 1998-2005, named 'Araket', was worked out by the presidential administration in 1998 and Kubanychbek Jumaliev, then head of the presidential administration, was coordinator of it. After it, JumAliyev was appointed prime minister in March 1998 and was sacked in December of the same year.

According to the governmental press service, a four-day meeting of the international working group on water resources and use of them in Central Asia will begin in Bishkek tomorrow. Experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan as well as the European Union will take part in it. It is the 4th meeting of the working group.

Four more protesters joined a group of hunger strikers on 3 April in Bishkek. They are protesting forgeries during the last parliamentary elections and demand to annul them. They also demand to free opposition leader Felix Kulov, arrested on 22 March. Actual number of hunger strikers is 17, but the two of them have been hospitalized recently.

About 150 people took part protest picket in the center of Bishkek. Pickets began on 15 March. The Bishkek City administration decided on 31 March that all the pickets, demonstrations and public meetings should be held on a square near the statue to Maxim Gorky close to the crossroad of the Ryskulov and Koyokezov Streets. But the picket in Bishkek is being held still in front of the Agricultural Ministry building, close to the main government building. They hold signs "Kulov is a political prisoner" and "Kulov's health on government's conscience" today.

Chairman of the opposition Ar-Namys (Dignity) Party Felix Kulov, arrested on 22 March, began protest hunger strike on 24 March. One of the party leaders Omurbek SubanAliyev told RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 3 April that the party has no information on Kulov's health condition. According to him, only Lawyer Lubov Ivanova has the right to meet Kulov in custody but she had to make a written statement that she would not release any information on Kulov's health. SubanAliyev said also, that even Kulov's spouse is not allowed to meet him.

However, the Russian Interfax reported on 3 April that Kulov gave an interview to the Russian ORT and RTR television networks in the detention cell the same day. According to Interfax, Kulov said that he keeps hunger strike still and his health has considerably deteriorated lately as a result of problems with his blood pressure. Also, authorities do not allow him to meet with his family or even go for a walk.

Omurbek Subanaliev, who held an urgent congress of the Ar-Namys Party in Bishkek on 2 April, told RFE/RL correspondent on 4 April that the party has gone underground to avoid arrests of its activists in provinces. According to him, the party will continue to fight for democracy and release of its leaders.

SubanAliyev said the party appeals to governments of the US, Great Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Russia asking them to recognize Kulov as political prisoner and give him an asylum. 154 delegates took part in the yesterday congress, 95 of them came from the regions.

Presidential press secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov held a news conference in Bishkek on 4 April. He said that democratic values have become an integral part of Kyrgyz society but there is still room to develop it. According to him, President Askar Akayev intends to improve some shortcomings being placed at the last parliamentary elections. Ibraimov said that the forthcoming visit by US State Secretary Madeleine Albright to Kyrgyzstan is not caused by arrest of Kulov. According to him, the Kulov's arrest never been discussed between the Kyrgyz and US governments. Ibraimov said also that the protest pickets in Bishkek had been prepared thoroughly in advance and that it is a public show.

US State Department spokesman James Foley said in Washington on 30 March: "Kyrgyzstan has been in the past a leader in democratic reforms in Central Asia, we find the recent events there are very troubling. And the Secretary is travelling to Central Asia precisely because of the recent difficulties there. She intends to deliver a tough message to the government of Kyrgyzstan on democracy and human rights."

Madeleine Albright will pay one-day visit to Kyrgyzstan on 17 April and will meet with President Askar Akayev and other state officials. According to Ibraimov, the US State Secretary wants to meet representatives of the Kyrgyz non-governmental organizations and students too.

According to Askar Aitmatov, adviser to President Askar Akayev, Russian president's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembsky will pay one-day visit to Bishkek tomorrow. He will meet President Askar Akayev, Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, members so the Kyrgyz Security Council and other state officials. A.Aitmatov said that bilateral cooperation between Russia and Kyrgyzstan, especially joint fight against international terrorism, narcobusiness, organized crime will be discussed during the meetings.

Askar Aitmatov, adviser to President Askar Akayev, held a news conference in Bishkek today. He announced that a planned round table discussion between the government and the opposition would be held under the aegis of the OSCE but the presidential administration would be an initiator of it.

According to A.Aitmatov, a special working group has been formed at the presidential administration to prepare the round table. And representatives of the Central Election Commission, Interior Ministry and Prosecutor General Office have been included in the group, because the decisions to be taken at the discussion, should be obligatory ones for the all parts.

OSCE Secretary General Jan Kubis announced in Bishkek on 15 March that he agreed President Askar Akayev to hold round table discussion with opposition representatives.

According to the Foreign Ministry, OSCE High Commissioner on Minorities Max Van der Stoel arrived in Kyrgyzstan on 3 April and will stay in the country till 6 April. He will open a field office of the OSCE in Osh City, southern Kyrgyzstan, then will meet President Askar Akayev and Foreign Minister Muratbek Imanaliev, President of the Assembly of People of Kyrgyzstan Sopubek BegAliyev in Bishkek and discuss state of ethnic minorities in Kyrgyzstan. Also, Van der Stoel will meet in Kyrgyzstan with leaders of different ethnic communities.

Chief editor of the independent Tribuna paper Yrysbek Omurzakov confirmed RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 3 April that a new trial against the opposition Res Publica weekly was held at the Pervomai district court of Bishkek on 31 March. Plaintiff was Sardarbek BotAliyev and he accused the weekly of insulting him. The court ruled to fine the paper in amount of 40,000 soms (about $850). Also, chief editor Zamira Sydykova and Yrysbek Omurzakov, who was a correspondent for weekly last year, must pay 5,000-som fines each. According to Omurzakov, Botlaiev felt insulted by an article written by Omurzakov and published in the Res Publica last June. Omurzakov wrote in the article that BotAliyev had been sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment before.

BotAliyev used to be a deputy chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) in 1998 but was sacked by Chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev. In September 1998, the Justice Ministry revoked the registration of the KCHR, made by the same ministry in June 1996, and registered in April 1999 a new organization under the same name ("Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights") and led by Sardarbek Botaliev. After strong protest from human rights organizations both in Kyrgyzstan and from outside, the KCHR was re-registered last August.

Since 28 March, the Res Publica weekly is not published due to it had not paid a fine according to the previous court ruling over the case of National TV and Radio Corporation President Amanbek Karypkuulov.

An urgent congress of the opposition Ar-Namys Party was held in Bishkek on 2 April. About 150 delegates attended. Member of the party political council Omurbek SubanAliyev reported to the congress. Congress decided that the party should go underground due to political persecutions against it.

Party chairman Felix Kulov was arrested in a Bishkek hospital on 22 March and is still in custody keeping protest fast since 24 March. Deputy chairman of the party and head of the Kulov's election campaign team Emil Aliyev was arrested in Bishkek on 9 March, just 3 days before the runoffs, and is also in custody still.

Party congress appealed to the world governments and international organization asking to influence to the Kyrgyz authorities and recognize Kulov and Aliyev as political prisoners. The Ar-Namys is the third largest party in Kyrgyzstan.

The party, founded last July, was not allowed to participate in the last parliamentary elections, held on 20 February and 12 March, and Kulov ran as independent from the Kara-Buura constituency. He collected most of votes in the first round but was announced lost in the runoff election. Voters both in Kara-Buura and capital city of Bishkek protested the results holding pickets. Thousands of people took part in pickets in Kara-Buura on 12-23 March, 11 of them were sentenced to 7 to 10 days of imprisonment. Protest pickets in Bishkek began on 15 March and they are continued still. Six people, who took part in Bishkek pickets, were sentenced on 18 March to pay fines.

About 300 people took part in a protest picket in Bishkek on 2 March and about 150 people on 1 April. Eleven people continue their protest hunger strike on the square in the center of Bishkek. The two other hunger strikers have been hospitalized due to worsening of they health conditions: Janyl Toktogulova on 30 March and Chynara Altymysheva on 1 April were delivered to hospital by ambulance.

City authorities put the water cannons on the square in front of the picketers on 2 April, but did not use them.

Head of the Pervomai district of Bishkek Bekjan Asanov met with the picketers on 1 April asking them to move to the other place in the city, but demonstrators rejected it. City administration adopted on 31 March a new regulation on pickets, demonstrations and public meetings in the city. According to it, from now on, any public meeting should be held on a square near the statue to Maxim Gorky close to the crossroad of the Ryskulov and Koyokezov Streets. Its is in the center of the city but quite far from the government building.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced in Bishkek on 1 April results of the parliamentary elections on party lists. 15 out of 105 parliamentary seats were allotted to political parties. Ten political parties and blocs were allowed to take part in the parliamentary elections on 20 February and 6 of them overcame the 5-percent threshold and will be represented in parliament.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Arzymat Sulaimanov announced in Bishkek on 31 March that Kyrgyzstan produced 610,000 ounces of gold (about 17 tons) in 1999 and would produce 648,800 ounces this year. However, according to Sulaimanov, gold output in January 2000 was by 3,000 ounces less than planned. Sulaimanov said the country could produce about 100,000 ounces of gold yearly.

There are about 30 gold deposits in Kyrgyzstan and the Canadian Cameco Corporation develops the biggest of them, the Kumtor gold deposit, since 1992. There are more than 500 tons of gold in Kumtor and the irst gold was produced at it late in 1996.

The Bishkek City administration announced on 1 April that Mayor Medetbek Kerimkulov had formed a new commission of experts on renaming the streets and other objects in the city. According to his decree, the old commission, formed on 21 July 1993, has been dissolved. A lot of streets in the city carry the old Soviet names still.