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Kyrgyz President's Chief Of Staff: Bakiev Had 'Black Battalion'

Kyrgyzstan's presidential chief of staff Emilbek Kaptagaev
BISHKEK-- Kyrgyz presidential chief of staff Emilbek Kaptagaev says former President Kurmanbek Bakiev had a "black battalion" of professionally trained killers to liquidate his opponents, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Kyrgyz Supreme Court spokesman Baktybek Rysaliev told RFE/RL that Kaptagaev made that allegation on October 12 while testifying at the trial of Bakiev and 27 of his relatives and former associates.

Kaptagaev said he and other opposition activists and leaders gathered in front the Forum business center in Bishkek on April 6, 2010 to express their views and had no intention of attacking the government building.

He said the subsequent clashes between antigovernment demonstrators and security forces were provoked by Bakiev's secret services.

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 demonstrators.

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

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.

Kaptagaev also said he believes Bakiev was involved in ordering the high-profile murders in 2009 of former presidential chief staff Medet Sadyrkulov and two of his associates, and of independent journalist Gennady Pavlyuk.

Sadyrkulov, who served as presidential administration head for several years under Bakiev, was found dead with two associates in a burnt-out car in March 2009, shortly after resigning to join the anti-Bakiev opposition.

At the time, officials said the deaths were the result of a traffic accident. But Sadyrkulov's relatives challenged that finding, saying the bodies were in positions indicating that the victims were already dead when the car caught fire.

The investigation into Sadyrkulov's death resumed in April 2010 after Bakiev fled the country after the antigovernment demonstrations, and the case was reclassified as premeditated murder.

Pavlyuk, a prominent Kyrgyz journalist of Russian origin well-known in Kyrgyzstan under the pseudonym Rustam Ibragimbek, died after being thrown from a tall building in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in December 2009 with his arms and legs bound.

On October 11, a court in Almaty found former Kyrgyz security service officer Aldayar Ismankulov, a Kyrgyz citizen, guilty of killing Pavlyuk, and sentenced him to 17 years in jail. Ismankulov's two codefendants, Kazakh nationals Almas Igilikov and Shalqar Orazalin, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in jail, respectively.

Pavlyuk's relatives and colleagues say his murder was politically motivated, as he was working with the opposition against Bakiev and his regime. He had also received many personal threats in the period before he was killed.

Read more in Kyrgyz here