Arrest of nationalist leader sparks Kyrgyz demonstrations

By bne IntelliNews November 22, 2013

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Hundreds of people demonstrated in Bishkek and other parts of Kyrgyzstan on November 21 following the arrest of senior opposition MP Akhmatbek Keldibekov on corruption charges.

Keldibekov, a member of the nationalist Ata-Zhurt party and former parliament speaker, was arrested on November 20. He is accused of being involved in the embezzlement of KGS40m ($830,000).

Around 50 people demonstrated outside the Kyrgyz parliament. However protestors number several hundred as they blocked a highway at Gulcha, near the country's second city Osh, which is Keldibekov's home town.

Early on November 22, local newswire 24.kg reported that the situation in Gulcha was stable, but added that Keldibekov's supporters planned to block the highway again today. Around 50 people spent the night in two yurts set up beside the road.

Keldibekov served as parliament speaker in 2010 - 11. However, he announced his resignation at an extraordinary parliamentary session after a government commission confirmed his links to organised criminal groups.

Three fellow leaders of the Ata-Zhurt party, which is linked to former president Kumanbek Bakiyev, were arrested in October 2012 after they led crowds that attacked the White House, where the parliament and government offices are located. Earlier this year they were found guilty of an attempted coup, but were later acquitted amidst weeks of protest concentrated in Ata-Zhurt's stronghold in the south of the country.

Keldibekov's supporters say that his arrest is politically motivated, a claim that was denied by a spokesperson for the General Prosecutor's Office on November 21. "All those who violate laws, regardless of their belonging to political parties, will be prosecuted," GPO spokesman Janybek Saliev told journalists, according to Akipress.

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