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Kyrgyz Opposition, Activists Hold 'Public Parliament' To Protest Government

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has consistently been under fire, particularly since his reelection last year.
Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has consistently been under fire, particularly since his reelection last year.
Participants in an opposition and nongovernmental forum in the Kyrgyz capital have adopted a resolution condemning the government for alleged rights abuses, politically motivated trials, and disregard for the constitution, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

The Bishkek gathering, labeled a "Public Parliament," stated in its resolution that according to country reports by international rights organizations -- including Freedom House's report this week -- Kyrgyzstan is no longer considered a "free" country.

U.S.-based rights and freedoms watchdog Freedom House released a report this week that downgrades Kyrgyzstan from "partly free" to "not free."

The Bishkek resolution says that last year's presidential election -- in which incumbent Kurmanbek Bakiev was reelected in a poll deemed by international monitoring organizations to have been neither free nor fair -- had led to a worsening of the "grave human rights situation" in Kyrgyzstan.

The document demands that Kyrgyz officials stop persecuting opposition leaders, youth activists, and journalists; restore the Constitutional Court's power to protect the constitution; and stop using force to disperse peaceful protesters.

"We want the laws to work and we want the judiciary system to protect people's rights, at least during trials," Tolekan Ismailova, the head of the NGO Citizens Against Corruption, told the gathering, which had about 60 attendees from opposition parties, rights groups, and intellectual circles.

Stoking The Flames

The opposition in Kyrgyzstan was galvanized by the January 11 conviction for corruption of former Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, who was given an eight-year sentence by a military court.

Rights activists and NGO leaders have said the charges against Isakov were politically motivated because he left Bakiev's government in 2008 to join the opposition.

In a reference to the terror imposed by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, Emil Kaptagaev, a member of the United Popular Movement (BEK), an umbrella group of opposition parties, told RFE/RL after the "Public Parliament" meeting that "today's reality shows that we have not only come closer to 1937, but we have, in fact, arrived at its threshold."

"If those events like [journalist Gennady] Pavlyuk's murder, Isakov's imprisonment, my own trial last year, and the incident in which I was kidnapped and beaten continue, then today or tomorrow our country will be in a situation of total, nationwide terror," Kaptagaev said.

The forum delegates decided to establish a committee that will cooperate with international organizations to help protect "human rights and democratic values" in the country.

The body also pledged to establish a group of human rights campaigners to send them to the remote Alai district -- Isakov's native area -- in the Osh region in order to "protect people's rights."

Protesters in the district were forcibly dispersed late on January 14 after they blockaded the Osh-Erkechtam highway for several hours. A criminal case has been opened against some of the protesters for holding an illegal rally and obstructing the road.

Meanwhile, hunger strikes by about two dozen people in support of Isakov entered their third day. Ten people at BEK offices in Bishkek and 15 others in Alai are refusing food to protest the Isakov case.

Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun met with the hunger strikers in Bishkek today.

They told him that they are demanding authorities free Isakov and all other political prisoners in Kyrgyzstan.

Trial are also currently being held for Alikbek Jekshenkulov, the country's former foreign minister and leader of the opposition For Justice Movement; Erkin Bolekbaev, a leader of opposition Green Party; and two human rights activists from the Chui region.