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Kyrgyz Report: August 14, 2000

14 August 2000

A group of about 40 armed fighters invaded Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Tajikistan at around 10 a.m. local time on 11 August. According to unconfirmed reports, several Kyrgyz servicemen were killed that day in clashes at the Ture pass in the Leilek district of Batken Oblast, which is about 200 kms west of the point where the invasion took place in August 1999. Leilek is the remotest southwestern district of the country. It is surrounded by Tajik territory and does not border on Uzbekistan.

Presidential press secretary Osmonakun Ibraimov told an urgent news conference in Bishkek on 11 August that the fighters intended to cross through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan secretly, but were prevented from doing so by Kyrgyz border guards. He said the rebels have no heavy weapons, only firearms. Ibraimov said the situation is under full control and the governmental forces are able to eliminate the rebels.

Ibraimov said President Askar Akaev discussed the situation in telephone conversations with the presidents of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Islam Karimov and Nursultan Nazarbaev, on 10 August. The three presidents agreed to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism.

Defense and security ministriy sources said on 13 August that the insurgents had killed 15- 20 Kyrgyz servicemen over the past two days and lost some 30 of their own men. They said that the Islamists are deploying snipers and avoiding direct clashes. They revised upwards to 100 the number of Islamist fighters.

According to residents of Batken Province, clashes are taking place now about 25 kms from the village of Bu Rabat, in the Batken district of Batken Oblast. Batken Oblast administration head Iskender Gaipkulov is at the battle site.

Kyrgyz Defense Minister Esen Topoev, who travelled to Batken on 11 August, reported to President Askar Akaev in Bishkek on 13 August on the situation in Batken. Representatives of the security and defense bodies of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan met in Batken on 12 August to assess the situation. They decided to form a joint headquarters on fighting against the rebels, to be located in the Tajik town of Khudjand.

On 7 August, Security Council secretary General Bolot Januzakov told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek that the recent clashes between militants and Uzbek government forces on the Tajik-Uzbek border do not threaten Kyrgyzstan's state security. He said Kyrgyz border guards and security forces are ready to overturn any rebel attack and they are also ready to help Uzbek forces if they ask for. According to the Uzbek government, one border guard was killed during the shoot-out in the Sariasiy district of the Surkhandarya region during the weekend.

According to the Kyrgyz Defense Ministry on 9 August, Kyrgyz governmental forces in the southern regions have been put on red alert due to the clashes near the Tajik-Uzbek border.

President Askar Akaev held an urgent meeting of the Defense Council in Bishkek on 10 August to discuss the security situation in the southern regions of the country.Leaders of the security, foreign, emergency and finance ministries reported to the meeting. It was decided to keep governmental troops in the south in fighting trim. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement in support of the Uzbek government actions to eliminate "international terrorists."

The Secretary General of the CIS Council on Collective Defense, Valery Nikolaenko, arrived in Bishkek on 11 August at the invitation of President Askar Akaev, with whom he discussed the security situation in southern Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and the agenda for the council session to be held in Moscow soon, according to the presidential press service. Nikolaenko said that Russia could help Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan if they fail to eliminate the rebels themselves. Nikolaenko also met in Bishkek on 11 August with the secretary of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council, General Bolot Januzakov.

A Chinese military delegation led by Ma Dyanku arrived in Bishkek on 11 August. They will discuss bilateral military cooperation between China and Kyrgyzstan with Defense Minister Esen Topoev.

Judge Nurlan Ashyrbekov announced the long-waited verdict in the Feliks Kulov trial late on 7 August. Kulov was acquitted on charges of abuse of his official position as Minister of National Security for lack of evidence and was released in the courtroom. But his three co-defendants were sentenced to different terms. The former head of the Kalkan anti-terror center of the Security Ministry, Janybek Bakhchiev, was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and two other former employees of the ministry, Nurlan Tokonoev and Kanat Sheishekeev each received a five-year suspended sentence. The prosecutors had demanded an eight-year prison term for Kulov, a15-year term for Bakhchiev and Tokonoev and a suspended 5-year term for Sheishekeev.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, Kulov said he is not ready to give a political appraisal of the verdict but from the juridical point of view, the ruling is correct. Kulov was arrested in Bishkek on 22 March and had spent 138 days in custody.

Kulov was vice president of Kyrgyzstan in 1992-1993. He resigned in December 1993, protesting corruption in the government. He then served as governor of Chu Oblast in 1994-1997, minister of national security in 1997-1998, and mayor of Bishkek in 1998-1999. He resigned from the latter post in April 1999, accusing President Askar Akayev of undemocratic rule, and founded the Party Ar-Namys (Dignity) in July 1999.

Nazisa Sumar of the prosecutor general's office announced in Bishkek on 8 August that an official reaction to Kulov's acquittal would be released soon. The chief editor of the "Utro Bishkeka" newspaper Melis Aidarkulov, author of a film documentary accusing Kulov of corruption, told RFE/RL correspondents that Kulov is guilty in any case and he could prove it if Kulov sues him. The documentary was shown in Kyrgyzstan several times when Kulov was in custody.

Communist Party chairwoman Klara Ajybekova said on 8 August that it is obvious that the Kyrgyz authorities acquitted Kulov under pressure from international community, especially from the U.S. government. One of the leaders of the People's Party, Daniyar Usenov, said that Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov, who acquitted Kulov, showed that there are still independent judges in the country.

Feliks Kulov told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 8 August that he needs a week to familiarize himself with the current political and economical situation in the country, because was isolated from public life for almost five months. He said he needs to acquire a detailed knowledge of the economic situation before deciding whether to run in the 29 October presidential poll.

Asked whether there was a political bargain behind his release, Kulov said that nobody from the Kyrgyz leadership met him to discus the issue, and that he met only with the guards and his lawyers during the detention. He also said that he has no time to sue those who organized the arrest and trial. However, he and his supporters intend to appeal against the court decisions against Bakhchiev, Tokonoev and Sheishekeev.

Kulov's aide Vitaly Iskhakov told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 10 August that Kulov has not yet announced officially that he will run for the presidency. But Iskhakov said that on 10 August Kulov's supporters submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) lists of some 50 Kulov proxies and a resolution signed by 280 Baitik village residents nominating Kulov as a presidential candidate. According to Iskhakov, if the CEC registers the proxies, they will begin to collect signatures in support of Kulov's candidacy.

The residents of Talas Oblast who held protest pickets in Bishkek for 245 consecutive days to demand Kulov's release began to leave Bishkek for their homes on 10 August. Kulov met with them in the village of Baitik near Bishkek on 9 August to thank them for their support. The pickets in Bishkek began on 15 March, just three days after the official announcement that Kulov lost in the second round of parliamentary elections. Kyrgyz opposition and foreign observers announced that Kulov won actually, but the election results were forged. The pickets ended on 7 August, after Kulov's acquittal and release.

Prosecutor Sharapidin Sheishenaliev, who was the public prosecutor at Kulov's trial, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 9 August that he will appeal within 10 days against the court's decision to acquit Kulov. SheishenAliyev said Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov ignored evidence of Kulov's guilt according to the clauses 30 (5,6), 177(2), 304 (3.3) and 315 of the Crimninal Code, proved by the investigators. SheishenAliyev added that it is very strange that the judge convicted the three former employees of the security ministry but acquitted Kulov, who was their superior.

According to the editorial board of the independent "Delo Nomer" weekly, its correspondent Vadim Nochevkin was summoned on 9 August to the Ministry of National Security and interrogated. He and the paper have been sued and are accused of divulging state secrets relevant to the Kulov case in an article published on 26 July. According to the paper, firstly, they have not made any commitment not to disclose the state secrets. Secondly, all the so-called secrets relating to the case had already been divulged by a pro-governmental paper and by Deputy Security Minister Boris Poluektov in interviews given to foreign human rights organizations.

The pro-governmental "Slovo Kyrgyzstana" published an editorial on 10 August entitled "How Much Is Freedom for Kulov?" Thearticle implied that Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov might have received a big bribe in hard currency from Kulov's supporters.

Speaking to an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek the same day, Ashymbekov denied a report by the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) that Ashymbekov "has had to resign not withstanding considerable pressure exerted over him by Kyrgyz authorities." Ashymbekov repeated that Kulov was acquitted because the charges against him were not proven. He announced that he intends to sue "Slovo Kyrgyzstana."

KCHR chairman Ramazan Dyryldaev told RFE/RL that if Ashymbekov is forced to resign, the KCHR and other human rights organizations will defend him as they protected Kulov. According to Dyryldaev, it is most likely that the decision to release Kulov was taken by President Askar Akaev under pressure from international community, but that other members of the Kyrgyz leadership are now against it.

The Central Election Commission announced in Bishkek on 8 August that initiative groups representing four presidential candidates have submitted to the commission lists of their supporters' signatures and the commission began to revise them. There are now 62,598 signatures in support of parliamentary vice speaker Omurbek Tekebaev, 61,127 signatures for journalist Melis Eshimkanov, 48,600 signatures for incumbent president Askar Akayev and 6,545 signatures for businessman Almaz Atambaev. No candidate has been yet registered officially; it is necessary to collect not less than 50,000 signatures to do so.

On 9 August, Ambassador Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, parliament deputy chairman of the presidential commission on human rights, announced in Bishkek that he will run for president.

A Congress of the Communist Party in Bishkek on 10 August nominated Anarbek Usupbaev, businessman and secretary of the party board, as the party's presidential candidate.

A Congress of the rival Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan decided at a congress in Bishkek on 12 August to nominate Iskhak Razzakov, head of the party organization in Osh Province, as its presidential candidate.

Chairwoman of the Women's Democratic Party Tokon Shailieva said in Bishkek on 12 August that she will run for the presidency.

The number of declared or anticipated presidential candidates currently stands at 17. They are: 1. Askar Akaev, incumbent president; 2. Tursunbek Akunov, human rights activist; 3. Anvar Artykov, former parliament deputy; 4. Almaz Atambaev, abusinessman, 5. Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, ambassador and parliament deputy, 6. Orozbek Bolturukov, farmer, 7. Melis Eshimkanov, journalist and head of an opposition party, 8. Felix Kulov, opposition Ar-Namys party leader, 9. Iskhak Masaliev, parliament deputy, 10. Dosbol Nur Uulu, head of a political party, 11. Ishak Razzakov, Party of Communists of Kyrgyzstan 12. Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, parliament deputy, 13. Women's Democratic Party chairwoman Tokon Shalieva, 14. Omurbek Subanaliev, opposition politician, 15. Omurbek Tekebaev, vice speaker of the parliament, 16. Yuruslan Toichubekov, former parliament deputy, 17. Anarbek Usupbaev, a businessman and member of the Communist Party of Kyrgyzstan.

None of the above has been registered officially as a candidate, nor have Akaev and Kulov formally affirmed they will contest the poll. Artykov, Bakir Uulu and Usupbaev have done so, but have not yet registered their initiative groups. However, supporters of Akaev, Atambaev, Eshimkanov and Tekebaev have announced they have already collected 50,000 signatures of voters necessary to register their candidates.

The Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations held a two-day seminar in Bishkek on 9-10 August on preparations for the presidential elections at which it set up a 15-member Coordinating Council to prepare to monitor the forthcoming presidential election. Representatives of about 170 NGOs will be trained as observers. After the Coalition published a very critical report based on its observation of the parliamentary poll in February-March, the Central Election Commission appealed to the justice and foreign ministries to rule on whether organizations receiving financial support from abroad have the right to monitor the presidential election.

Leaders of NGOs met in the Coalition office in Bishkek on 9 August with Security Council secretary Bolot Januzakov, presidential adviser Askar Aitmatov and Arslan Anarbaev of the presidential administration. It was agreed at the meeting that it is necessary to organize a round table discussion between the government, political parties, non-governmental organizations and media late in August. According to NGO Coalition Chairwoman Tolekan Ismailova, such a roundtable is especially needed after acquittal and release of Felix Kulov. Twenty-one representatives each from the government, political parties, non-governmental organizations and the media will participate.

The first round table discussion was held in Bishkek on 8 and 12 June, but the main opposition and non-governmental organizations boycotted it, because the government invited to it everybody who wanted.

Director of the Kyrgyz State Property Fund Sabirdin Jeenbekov and Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Charles Frank signed an agreement in Bishkek on 9 August on setting up the Kyrgyz Commercial-Industrial Bank. Its initial capital will be $7 million, of which the EBRD will contribute $4.5 million. Other contributors include the Kyrgyz government, the Aga Khan Foundation, and German society for international development. The Kyrgyz government contribution will be about $700,000. The bank will begin to operate next month and will give loans to small business enterprises.

Visiting Talas Oblast on 8 August, President Askar Akaev attended the opening ceremony of the Semetei substation near the Taldy-Bulak village and visited the construction sites of the Ala-Bel substation and Talas-Suusamyr highway. He donated 70 computers to the local authorities and met with residents of the Bakai-Ata and Kara-Buura districts. Akaev announced that a new university will be opened in Talas in September. The oblast leasership conferred upon Akaev the rank of honorary citizen of Talas Oblast and presented him with a special gold medal.

The State Agency on Demography and Migration announced in Bishkek on 7 August that the ethnic Kyrgyz living in Afghanistan could be resettled in the Chong-Alai district of Kyrgyzstan next spring. A special commission of the agency reached agreement on the resettlement at a meeting last week on the Tajik-Aghan border with a representative of the Afghan Kyrgyz community, Abdurashid Khan. About 1,600 Kyrgyz currently live in the Badakhshan area of northern Afghanistan.

Deputy Interior Minister Kurmanbek Kubatbekov told a news conference on 7 August that Rahimjan Temiraliev, one of the two suspects in the 3 August murder of Israeli diplomat Brosh Elazar, was detained on the day of the killing in possession of the dead man's passport, mobile phone and notebook. Temiraliev, 21, had a previous criminal conviction and is unemployed. His accomplice, 19-year-old Anatoli Polyansky, who is a student of the College of Mines in Bishkek, is still at liberty. According to Kubatbekov, robbery was the motive for murder.

Elazar's landlady 42-year-old Aigul Junusheva, was also killed. Both victims had their throats cut. Brosh Elazar was an attache of the Israeli Embassy in Kazakhstan, but worked in Kyrgyzstan.

The trial continued at Bishkek's Pervomai District Court on 10 August of opposition politician Topchubek TurgunAliyev and eight other people accused of preparing an attempt upon President Akaev's life last year. Judge Esen Abylkasymov began to question the defendants. Timur Stamkulov, who informed the Security Ministry about the plot on 29 April 1999 and was subsequently accused of involvement in the assassination plans, said at the trial that he never heard from the other accused people that they wanted to kill President Akaev.

According to Turgunaliev, the case was orchestrated by the Ministry of National Security (MNS) itself and Stamkulov was an MNS agent and an instigator. The charges are based on his statements but he changed his evidence after being accused too. Twelve people were arrested by security agents on 1-3 May 1999. TurgunAliyev was charged last November.

The Pervomai District Court in Bishkek on 11 August ruled that the decision of the fifth congress of the Women's Democratic Party on 13 January was illegal. The congress placed Shailieva only fourth on its list of candidates to contest the seats in the Kyrgyz parliament to be allocated under the proportional system, but the party won only two mandates in that ballot. The court recognized Shailieva as a parliament deputy.