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Kyrgyzstan Faces A Dilemma

Policemen stand guard as security personnel work at the site of a blast outside the sports facility where several defendants are standing trial over killilngs during the April violence that ousted then-President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
Policemen stand guard as security personnel work at the site of a blast outside the sports facility where several defendants are standing trial over killilngs during the April violence that ousted then-President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
"The situation in Kyrgyzstan is moving slowly but steadily in the direction of instability," says former Security Council Secretary Miroslav Niyazov. The events of recent days confirm his statement. Early last week, an armed militant group was exposed in southern Kyrgyzstan that allegedly planned to carry out terrorist attacks against civilians in Osh and then expand its activities throughout Osh Oblast.

"This nationalist-separatist group included representatives of many ethnic groups -- including Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, and even Russians -- and intended to carry out terrorist acts not only in southern Kyrgyzstan but in the capital as well," current Security Council Secretary Marat Imankulov told journalists. Security forces seized 15 kilograms of explosives. Experts say that amount would have been sufficient to destabilize the nervous city and incite popular panic.

Just a couple of days later, there was an explosion in Bishkek outside the sports complex where for the last few weeks those accused of shooting protesters on April 7 have been on trial. "The recent events in Osh and Bishkek are links in one chain aimed at the destabilization of the situation in the country and breaking the decision of the authorities to restore normal life," presidential chief of staff Emil Kaptagaev said on national television. "Most likely, this is the work of revanchists who lost power in the April 7 revolution."

Near Miss?

More specifically, observers connect the Bishkek blast with an effort to influence the ongoing trial. "Since the explosion took place near the rear entrance to the building, which is used by the accused and their supporters, it is hard to see an intention to inflame the situation with the goal of destabilizing the situation in the country," police investigator Tynchtyk Karymshakov said. He argued that the blast was organized to target those who are accused of firing at protesters on April 7.

"If they wanted to create panic among the population, it would have been much more effective to place the bomb near the main entrance, where thousands of people pass every day," he said.

For some reason, the blast did not occur as the session was beginning, but about an hour beforehand. "It is possible that a large number of casualties was avoided just by chance, since the beginning of the hearing on Tuesday was pushed back an hour late on Monday and perhaps those who planted the bomb did not know this," said Akmat Balybaev, who has been regularly attending the trial. "Before that, we'd been arriving at court at 9 a.m."

The blast occurred at 8:55 a.m. and, as a result, security guards were injured.

Nonetheless, officials insist the explosion was intended to terrorize the population. National Security Service Chairman Kolbai Musaev noted that the explosion was caused by a homemade bomb set off by mobile phone. He said that only a professional terrorist could fashion such a device.

"According to the preliminary reports, the terrorists intended to place the bomb in a sewage manhole: the goal was to frighten people rather than kill them," Musaev said. He added that it was possible the bomb was planted as early as Friday night or Saturday, when the exterior of the building was not patrolled by police guards.

On Trial

The situation in Kyrgyzstan is further complicated by the fact that three of the accused in the trial are former high-ranking officials in the government of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev who have been wanted since they failed to appear at the second session of the trial. The three are former secretariat head Oksana Malevanaya, former presidential chief of staff Kanybek Dzhoroev, and former Prosecutor-General Nurlan Tursunkulov, all of whom were under house arrest when they went missing.

"It is likely that after the first, scandalous session of the court, they understood that even if they are acquitted, the hostile mood of the crowd of relatives of victims would mean they could not remain unpunished," a retired police colonel told me. An investigation has been launched into the disappearance of the three defendants.

Including these three individuals, there are now nine people targeted in arrest warrants in connection with this case. They include Bakiev himself; former State Protection Service head Dzhanish Bakiev (the former president’s brother); National Security Council adviser Marat Bakiev (the former president's son); former National Security Service head Marat Sutalinov; former Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov; and former special police unit head Esenbai Baiysh-uulu. In all, 28 people have been charged in the case. Many are military or police officers who claim they are being prosecuted for fulfilling their constitutional duties.

Miroslav Niyazov said he thinks it will be difficult for the country to find a way out of this situation. "The main goal of the current authorities is to keep the country under control," he said. "But this is really hard, considering that law enforcement personnel are not certain that tomorrow some new government won't come after them and try to make their service a scapegoat."

"A stable government is only possible when the law enforcement organs believe in state authority. But it must try and punish those who are genuinely guilty of causing the deaths of civilians," Niyazov concluded.

Kuban Abdymen is editor of the Zpress news website in Bishkek. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL