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Two Kyrgyz Opposition Leaders Detained, Charged

Tekebaev (center) at an opposition rally the day before his detention
Tekebaev (center) at an opposition rally the day before his detention
BISHKEK -- The leaders of two Kyrgyz opposition parties have been detained and charged with organizing illegal rallies and violating gun laws.

Ata Meken (Fatherland) Socialist Party leader and former parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebaev was charged on January 17 in the northwest Talas region with holding an illegal rally and carrying too many bullets in his gun.

His trial began late that day but was postponed until January 19, when he received a warning from the judge for holding the rally. Tekebaev said the rally was not a protest but a conference, which does not need official approval.

The gun charges will be heard by the court at a later date. Tekebaev, who has a license to carry a gun, was told that he had 23 bullets in the gun, whereas the law allows for 10 bullets. He is also accused of altering the gun.

Meanwhile, the leader of the For Justice movement, Alikbek Jekshenkulov, who is also a former foreign minister, received a warning from judges in the Talas region for organizing what they said was an illegal rally two days earlier.

Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun and the United Popular Movement, an umbrella group of several opposition blocs and parties, condemned the Kyrgyz authorities for obstructing peaceful gatherings and for taking legal action against opposition leaders.

The leader of the United Kyrgyzstan party, former Prime Minister Amangeldy Muraliev, also expressed his concerns over the actions against opposition leaders.

Muraliev said the charges against the opposition leaders contradict the Kyrgyz Constitution, laws on political parties, and international norms for human rights.

He told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that "political rivalry in Kyrgyzstan has fallen to a low level of ethics."

Tekebaev told RFE/RL after he and his driver were detained that the authorities planned to confiscate equipment intended for the rally, such as a microphone and loudspeaker.

"The main matter is that they are trying to confiscate my legally carried weapon in order to try and show that it was carried illegally," Tekebaev said. "This is their clever means to stop the [opposition] meetings."

The Kyrgyz opposition announced on January 17 that it is postponing all regional meetings in Talas because of the "obstacles by authorities."