Kyrgyz Security Agency Faces Curbs

The Kyrgyz national security ministry, widely accused of human rights abuses, may find its powers drastically cut

Kyrgyz Security Agency Faces Curbs

The Kyrgyz national security ministry, widely accused of human rights abuses, may find its powers drastically cut

The Ministry of National Security, notorious for the vigorous suppression of political dissidents in Kyrgyzstan, is battling against a surprise demand from influential quarters for it to be broken up.

The issue was raised by Kamil Bayalinov, an advisor to President Askar Akaev, in an interview with the independent newspaper Obshestvenny Rating (Social Rating). "The KGB-MNS must be broken up and its political functions removed," Bayalinov said.

The statement drew stormy reaction from heads of security departments. They professed themselves deeply distressed at the abrupt way the issue had been raised and warned that changes like these could bring dire consequences for the republic.

KGB-MNS minister, Tashtemir Aitbaev, hurled back accusations against what he calls the political elite. At a parliamentary sessions devoted to the conflict with radical Islamic groups, Aitbaev said certain Kyrgyz politicians had secretly collaborated with the members of the Wahhabi sect.

Deputy Minister of National Security Major General Miroslav Niyazov said a more serious and balanced approach should be taken to reforming security. He argued that the ministry should not be left with responsibility only for intelligence and counter intelligence, which is what its critics demand. "We really do protect our homeland from intrigues which pose a threat to the state," Niyazov said.

"For some reason people see in our ministry the root of all evil. But if the system were broken up then a multitude of woes will descend on us. Within this country there are people who undermine the basis of the state and somebody has to prevent that."

The views of Niyazov are challenged by several political parties, notably the leader of the centrist Moya Strana (My Country) party, Zainidin Kurmanov, although he admits the present national security ministry, under the pretence of searching for internal enemies, concentrates on the persecution of people with unwelcome political views.

Kurmanov described the KGB-MNS as an uncontrolled, secretive organisation which works against the public interest.

The accusation is widely supported. There has been a chorus of complaints by local human rights groups and international organisations over recent crackdowns on independent media and opposition politicians.

On September 1, nine people were brought to court and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of plotting to assassinate the head of state.

One opposition party leader, Topchubek Turgunaliev, was jailed for 16 years. The defence claimed the case was based on a false accusation by Timur Stamkulov, a security ministry agent.

The KGB-MNS brought another case against the influential Independent newspaper Delo No. This claimed that a correspondent of the newspaper, Vadim Nochevkin, released official secrets in a recent article.

"The real paradox is that the Deputy Minister of National Security, Boris Poluektov, himself unmasked the undercover agent Kanat Sheishekeyev and then became my accuser," said Nochevkin.

On top of all this, many Kyrgyz parliamentarians are unhappy about the ministry's interference in their activities. They've accused it of tapping the telephone conversations of 12 deputies.

The views of Kamil Bayalinov have been reflected both in government and non-government media. And there has been much speculation as to what prompted him to air them.

Bayalinov is known in Kyrgyzstan as a very cautious politician with good connections inside the national security ministry. There is widespread belief that his move is the beginning of a complex game with far-reaching goals.

Several commentators note that Akaev came under strong criticism in the West after recent elections returned him to power by an astonishingly large majority amid accusation of ballot rigging and intimidation.

These commentators believe the president now needs a scapegoat to salvage his democratic credentials and that the KGB-MNS would fit the bill nicely.

Zhypara Abdrakhmanova is a regular IWPR contributor

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