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Ex-Kyrgyz Official Says Mass Arrests Led To Last Year's Bishkek Violence

Azimbek Beknazarov said the arrest of many opposition leaders led to the protests that brought the downfall of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev.
BISHKEK -- A former member of Kyrgyzstan's interim government says the mass arrest of opposition leaders last year caused the deadly clashes between protesters and security forces that led to the overthrow of the government, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Kyrgyz Supreme Court spokesman Baktybek Rysaliev told RFE/RL that Azimbek Beknazarov, who served as deputy prime minister in the interim government last year, testified as a witness in the trial of former President Kurmanbek Bakiev and 27 of his former associates on October 5 that it was the opposition leaders' arrests that triggered the violence in Bishkek on April 7.

Beknazarov said opposition leaders and their supporters gathered in front of the Forum business center in Bishkek to discuss further protest actions when they learned that almost all of the key leaders of the opposition had been arrested.

He said that made people angry and the mass protests turned violent.

Nearly 90 people were killed in the clashes and almost 400 wounded, of whom a dozen later died of their injuries.

Bakiev and his former associates -- most of them his close relatives -- are on trial for having fired upon, or having given the command to open fire on, the unarmed demonstrators.

Most of the defendants are in detention or under house arrest. But Bakiev and several others are being tried in absentia.

Bakiev is living in Belarus at the invitation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Read more in Kyrgyz here