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Kyrgyz Activists Demonstrate As Opposition Leader's Appeal Begins

Isakov supporters demonstrate in the southern Alai district on February 9.
GULCHO, Kyrgyzstan -- About 1,000 protesters gathered in the southern Kyrgyz village of Gulcho to demand the release of former Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The demonstrators met at a local sports complex after local officials refused to allow the rally to gather at the village's administrative building. Outside the complex, dozens of young supporters of Isakov were on horses guarding the gathering.

Isakov was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to eight years in prison last month. He pleaded not guilty and said that the case against him was politically motivated because of his work with the opposition.

Several of his supporters -- including his 85-year-old mother -- have been on a rotating hunger strike for the past three weeks demanding his release from prison. The hunger strike was suspended on February 9.

A Kyrgyz military court today began hearings into Isakov's appeal. The hunger strikers told RFE/RL that they stopped their action in order "not to be seen as trying to influence the court's decision" on the appeal.