Kyrgyzstan risks renewed unrest as it returns nationalist leaders to prison

By bne IntelliNews August 8, 2013

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The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan on August 7 reversed a decision to release three nationalist leaders from prison, sparking concern of fresh unrest.

Overturning a ruling from the Bishkek city court to acquit three leaders of the opposition Ata-Zhurt party, the country's top court waded into a row which has implications of popular protest on either side. The three leaders of the nationalist party will now be required to serve short prison sentences.

The supreme court said that it would uphold the original decision by the Pervomay district court, made in March, to sentence Kamchybek Tashiyev, Sadyr Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov for attempting to overthrow the government during demonstrations in October.

It also ruled that two members of the Bishkek city court judicial board - Kurmankul Zulushev and Mederbek Satyev - had made an illegal decision when they acquitted the three opposition leaders at an appeal hearing on June 17, reports 24.kg. - That ruling had helped end ongoing protests that blocked roads and occupied roads in the region surrounding the city of Osh - a nationalist hotbed.

It also sparked a popular backlash from opposing forces, as it was claimed the judges were pushed hard to acquit. Kyrgyz state prosecutors said the day after the verdict that it was made "under pressure" and that there was "sufficient evidence" to show the three men were guilty.

The prosecutor's statement said that during the October 2012 demonstration outside the White House, Tashiyev "repeatedly openly urged the audience to a violent seizure of power to protesters who had arrived armed with firearms, knives, metal rods and stones." He also led a group that attempted to break into the White House, where the parliament and government offices are located.

Ata-Zhurt supporters packed into the courtroom during the appeal hearing in June, and are reported to have started throwing shoes and bottles at the judges when an adjournment was announced. Prosecutors had demanded much tougher sentences, asking for ten years for Tashiyev and nine years each for Zhaparov and Mamytov.

The decision to reinstate the original ruling threatens to spark further unrest. The country saw weeks of protests in several areas of the country in the run up to the appeal hearing in June. Ata-Zhurt is believed to have been behind violent protests around the Kumtor gold mine in late May, which were followed by a week of demonstrations in the southern town of Jalal-Abad and a blockade of the country's main north-south road.

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