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Kyrgyz Report: November 14, 2000

14 November 2000

President Askar Akaev outlined his priorities for his next term in office in a 14 November addressto a joint session of both chambers of the Kyrgyz parliament. Akaev, who was re-elected on 29 October, said he will concentrate on improving economic and social conditions. He said poverty in Kyrgyzstan has become a national problem, but added that there have been positive changes in the economic situation since late 1999.

Akaev noted that international observers criticized the Kyrgyz authorities for shortcomings during the recent presidential poll and election campaign, and said that criticism by the OSCE Mission must be taken into consideration. He said the Kyrgyz leadership is working now to improve the situation. He said he asked the prosecutor general to investigate all election violations and to report to him in two weeks. Akaev also said that he regards the adoption of the Resolution 397 in the US House of representatives on 1 November very seriously and has already sent a letter inviting US congressmen to visit Kyrgyzstan to assess the situation at first hand.

Akaev told the parliament the moratorium on the death penalty, due to expire in December, will be extended for another year and the post of ombudsman will soon be introduced.

The US "Christian Science Monitor" on 13 November published an article on Kyrgyzstan entitled "Oasis of Democracy Shrinks." The article notes that "President Askar Akaev was the 'Thomas Jefferson ... of Central Asia,' with 'more than a bit of Benjamin Franklin in him as well,' according to US Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott in 1994, and Kyrgyzstan was a "very promising" beacon of democracy. But the controversial 29 October presidential election that extended Mr. Akaev's tenure has turned that appraisal upside down."

Fourteen people continued their protest picket in the town of Jalal-Abad on 14 November for the 30th consecutive day, but police did not intervene to disperse them.. They are demanding the release of seven men sentenced by a Bishkek district court on 1 September on charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akayev last year. Six of them have been in detention since May 1999. Topchubek Turgunaliev, who was originally summoned as a witness in the case, was arrested on charges of "ideological leadership" of the group on 1 September 2000 when the trial was in progress and sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment.

Timur Stamkulov, one of the eight men convicted of plotting to assassinate President Akaev, was questioned by Judge Rysbek ShukurAliyev on 14 November. The Bishkek City Court began on 7 November to consider the appeal by the convicted. Stamkulov said on 14 November that he had given the Security Ministry tapes with recorded voices of members of the group, which could prove that they were preparing a plot. According to Stamkulov, then Security Minister Misir Ashyrkulov equipped him with tape recorder to record the voices. Stamkulov was sentenced to four years of imprisonment but amnestied and released on 1 September.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has issued the 2000 reports on the economies of the countries in transition. It says in its report for Kyrgyzstan, "Although most of the foreign debt is concessional, government debt service payments already amount to one-third of total expenditures, increasing pressure to reduce the fiscal deficit. The investment climate needs to be improved substantially to reverse the fall in private and foreign investment and this will require progress specifically in civil service and tax reform. The financial system needs revitalization, including the transfer of the banks under central bank administration to private ownership; however, much-needed capital infusions will depend on improvements in regulatory framework and supervision."

An international conference sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources on sharing the water resources of Central Asia opened in Bishkek on 14 November. Experts from the UN, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and representatives of the Central Asian states are taking part.