OSH/BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Some 1,000 protesters have picketed the Osh mayor's office in southern Kyrgyzstan to demand that it stop "blackmailing" parliament speaker Akmatbek Keldibekov over alleged criminal links, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
The protesters also demanded that Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party leader Omurbek Tekebaev, who also leads the party's parliament faction, should resign. Ata-Meken members initiated an investigation earlier this month into Keldibekov's alleged ties with criminal groups.
Kanybek Imanaliev, chairman of the parliamentary commission that investigated Keldibekov, told RFE/RL that the probe had revealed evidence that advisers and assistants appointed by Keldibekov had connections to Kyrgyz criminal groups.
Imanaliev added that it had been proven that Keldibekov has met with reputed Kyrgyz crime boss Kamchy Kolbaev during private trips to Dubai, Istanbul, and the Russian city of Astrakhan this year.
Osh Province Governor Sooronbai Jeenbekov met with the protesters in Osh and urged them to address their demands to the central government in Bishkek.
But the protesters remained on the square in front of the mayor's office. At least 30 of the protesters are on horses.
Some 100 supporters of Keldibekov have blocked the Osh-Erkech-Tam highway near the town of Gulcho. Alai district Deputy Governor Mamasharip Musaev told RFE/RL that some 50 protesters also blocked the highway on December 11.
Parliament is discussing the possibility of holding a vote of confidence in Keldibekov.
Read more in Kyrgyz here, here, here, here, and here