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Ex-Kyrgyz Speaker Persuades Protesters To Disperse

Keldibekov's supporters had been rallying in Osh since December 11.
Keldibekov's supporters had been rallying in Osh since December 11.
OSH, Kyrgyzstan -- Former Kyrgyz parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov has persuaded several hundred of his supporters to end their protest in the southern city of Osh, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Keldibekov, who announced his resignation on December 12 amid allegations that he had ties to criminal groups, went to Osh the following day to talk to the protesters demanding his reinstatement and the dissolution of parliament.

A parliamentary committee investigated the charges against Keldibekov earlier this month and reportedly found evidence that he had met with reputed Kyrgyz crime boss Kamchy Kolbaev abroad on three occasions.

Hundreds of Keldibekov's supporters had been rallying in Osh since December 11 to give their backing to the parliament deputy.

Keldibekov supporter Asylkan Abysheva told RFE/RL that "we demand Keldibekov's reappointment as the parliament speaker, otherwise parliament should be dissolved."

Another demonstrator, Abdilmukhammed Kutpidinov said that Keldibekov's supporters were demanding that "a fair attitude be shown to all Kyrgyz men and women regardless of whether they are from the north or the south." He said the campaign against Keldibekov has been organized "by those who split the nation into the north and south."

Despite cool weather, the demonstrators stood on Osh's central square late into the night of December 13-14 until Keldibekov arrived. They then picked him up and carried him when he got out of his car.

Keldibekov told supporters that "all the accusations put forward against me by [the leader of the Ata-Meken party, Omurbek] Tekebaev have never been proven. It is clear that those who accused me had one goal -- to vacate the 'armchair' for somebody they wanted to see as a new speaker. I'm not tied to the post [of speaker]. People elected me as a parliament deputy."

Keldibekov also slammed the current government for "failing to locate and try those responsible for killings during antigovernment mass protests in Bishkek in April last year."

He later urged the supporters to go home. "It is very cold here and it is not safe for your health to stay outside for such a long time.... Time will judge everything. Please go home."

His supporters then left the square.

Meanwhile, Kyrgyz Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun told RFE/RL on December 13 that a mass hunger strike, which was suddenly launched simultaneously in seven different prisons in Kyrgyzstan, is connected to Keldibekov's resignation.

Hundreds of inmates in seven Kyrgyz prisons were still continuing the hunger strike on December 14, demanding better living conditions and meals.

Read more in Kyrgyz and see photo gallery here

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