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Kyrgyzstan: Police Fury Over Aksy Trial
Kyrgyzstan is facing another wave of protests over the deaths of six civilians in the Aksy district in March - this time by supporters of the police officials standing trial over the incident.
Police officers have staged mass demonstrations in the south of the republic since the trials began in Kerben on September 30. In the most recent protest, around 100 policemen staged a picket outside the presidential palace in Bishkek on October 10.
Their colleagues face charges of exceeding their authority in dispersing the March 17 protest that ended in tragedy.
The demonstrators are demanding the prosecution of the senior officials who gave the order for force to be used. Protests in support of the accused men appear to be gathering momentum, and a march to the capital Bishkek is now being mooted.
Some observers fear the protests may escalate into a national strike by law enforcement bodies. Police officers in the Jalal-Abad Oblast have already staged a one-day walkout in support of their colleagues in July.
One police lieutenant colonel, who did not want to be named, warned IWPR that there was no way to predict how the protests would turn. "Officers resent the fact that their colleagues are being held responsible for the Aksy tragedy," he said.
"If you add the fact that officers - especially the rank and file - get miserable wages, it's not too difficult to imagine what such resentment may turn into."
Law enforcement officials accused of responsibility for the Aksy incident - who include Daniyar Kuluev and Kubanychbek Tokobaev, former heads of the regional and provincial police; ex-regional prosecutor Abdysatar Kaldarov; and Aksy's previous chief Shermamat Osmonov - now face up to four years in jail.
Jalal-Abad supporters of the six men organised a meeting on October 2 to discuss the trials, with around 300 people gathering at the central square in Osh, the largest city in southern Kyrgyzstan.
On the same day, in Bishkek, Deputy Prime Minister Bazarbay Mambetov met a new committee formed at the end of September to protect the rights of the accused officers. The group asked the minister to halt their prosecution.
The officers' case has been taken up by the independent media, which published an open letter from the accused, in which they stressed they had simply "followed orders" on the fateful day.
They alleged that the real responsibility lies with Amanbek Karypkulov and Bolot Januzkov, the former heads of the presidential administration and the national security service respectively; ex-interior minister Temirbek Akmataliev; security council secretary Misir Ashyrkulov; secretary of state Osmonakun Ibraimov; and Prosecutor General Chubak Abyshkaev.
Public pressure forced Akaev to sack Karypkulov and Akmataliev shortly after the Aksy tragedy. But in July, to the annoyance of many, the former was appointed ambassador to Turkey while the latter took a top post in the presidential administration.
Abduvakhap Moniev, a reporter on the newspaper Agym (Current), talked to the accused men before the trial began. "The officers are outraged at what they see as unjust treatment at the hands of the political leadership," he said. "I got the impression they will stop at nothing to defend their honour."
The Kyrgyz police force is facing a number of difficulties. No less than three different ministers have been in charge since the year began, and the officers have had to cope with a growing number of protests.
Meanwhile, the authorities have warned that the police must bear responsibility for any injuries suffered by members of the public during the clashes.
Parliamentary deputy Kurbatbek Baibolov told IWPR that the only way to defuse the situation was to punish the officials named by the accused police officers - something the residents of Aksy have been calling for all along.
Muratbek Imanaliev, former foreign minister and dean of the American University in Kyrgyzstan, believes the situation is serious enough to jeopardise internal security.
"I hope the people and police will not allow more mass disturbances," he said. "Before taking any actions, all the sides should ask themselves whether or not this will lead to the collapse of the Kyrgyz state."
Sultan Jumagulov is a BBC stringer in Bishkek.
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