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Kyrgyz Protesters Demand Release Of Politician On Trial

Iskhak Masaliev
Iskhak Masaliev
BISHKEK/KADAMJAI, Kyrgyzstan -- Several hundred protesters have rallied to demand the release of a former Kyrgyz Communist Party head on trial for allegedly stoking unrest in the south of the country last year, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

More than 300 people picketed the district administration building in the southern town of Kadamjai today in support of Iskhak Masaliev, who went on trial in December along with Usen Sadykov, a former presidential administration head.

One of the protesters, Jyrgalbek Absatarov, told RFE/RL that if Masaliev is not released, his supporters will organize a protest march to Bishkek.

A similar rally was held in front of Bishkek's Birinchi Mai District Court, where some 100 protesters demanded Masaliev's immediate release.

The trial resumed today.

The two men have pleaded not guilty to charges of organizing mass disorder in Osh and Jalal-Abad regions in mid-May and attempting to seize power.

On May 12-13, groups allegedly associated with former President Kurmanbek Bakiev briefly occupied government buildings in Jalal-Abad and Osh. Investigators say that Masaliev and Usenov were among the organizers.

Bakiev's nephew, Sanjar Bakiev, was found guilty of involvement in organizing the incident and sentenced to 10 years in jail in November. His verdict was upheld by an appeals court last week.

The May 12-13 incident was followed by unrest in Jalal-Abad the following week and by June's widespread clashes between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan that claimed hundreds of lives.

Bakiev was ousted in April as a result of large-scale antigovernment protests in Bishkek during which more than 80 people died and hundreds were wounded in clashes between protesters and security forces.

Read in Kyrgyz here