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Kyrgyz Protesters Demand Release Of Jailed Politician

Supporters of jailed opposition leader Ismail Isakov gather in the Alay district.
GULCHO, Kyrgyzstan -- Hundreds of protesters in the southern Kyrgyz district of Alay have gathered to demand the release of jailed former Defense Minister Ismail Isakov, in the latest in a series of protests by Isakov's supporters, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Isakov, who comes from the Alay district in the Osh region, was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to eight years in jail in January. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and said his case is politically motivated for his opposition work.

Isakov joined the opposition in October 2008 shortly after leaving his post as defense minister. He had been a close associate of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

The protesters demanded on March 6 that Isakov be released by March 15. If their demand is not met, they said, thousands of Alay district citizens will begin a protest march to Bishkek, which is several hundred kilometers away.

Isakov's lawyer, Azimbek Beknazarov, told RFE/RL that on March 5 that his client was transferred from the Kyrgyz National Security Committee's Detention Center in Bishkek to maximum security labor camp No. 19 near the capital.