Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Kyrgyz Opposition Leaders Sentenced For Attempt To Overthrow Government

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by Joldosh Osmonov (03/20/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The trial against three Kyrgyz opposition leaders is at its final stage and is the topic of widespread public discussions over the current opposition’s ability to mobilize public support against the country’s leadership. While most experts think the Kyrgyz public is currently in no mood to support protests and rallies, others claim that the opposition’s prospects for attracting support for such actions are underestimated.

 

On March 16, court hearings against three leaders of the opposition “Ata Jurt” party, Kamchybek Tashiev, Sadyr Japarov and Talant Mamytov, who are accused of calling for and attempting a violent overthrow of Kyrgyzstan's government, were concluded. The verdicts of Bishkek city’s Pervomay district court against the parliamentarians and their associates will be announced on March 29. The state prosecutors demand ten years in jail for Tashiev, nine years for Japarov and Mamytov, and three to four years for their body guards.

On October 3, 2012, the leaders of Ata-Jurt, which has the largest faction in the national parliament, organized a demonstration on a central square in Bishkek demanding the nationalization of Kumtor, the country’s largest gold mining company. During his speech at the protest, Tashiev allegedly called for an overthrow of the government and led the crowd in an attempt to seize the White House, where the country’s president and parliament reside. Protesters, led by Tashiev, climbed over the White House’s fence and attempted to enter the building. The crowd was dispersed by police, while the party’s leaders and other organizers of the protest were arrested.

The state prosecutors claim that the opposition leaders, knowing that the country’s president and prime minister were absent from the capital city and having armed themselves, deliberately aimed to seize power by violent means. As a result, the prosecutors brought charges against the suspects based on the article “Public calls to violent change of the Constitutional system” in Kyrgyzstan’s criminal Code.

In turn, the accused politicians refuted the accusations, claiming that there was no intention or plan to organize a coup d’état. Tashiev stated that the protesters were not armed and that he only led his supporters to his office in the White House and planned to organize a meeting with other parliamentarians. He termed the trial an attempt by the country’s leadership rid itself of political opponents and regarded the case as politically motivated and biased.

Since the arrests in October 2012, supporters of the opposition leaders have from time to time organized protests in several cities, primarily in Tashiev’s hometown of Jalalabad, demanding the release of the parliamentarians. The rallies have generally failed to draw a large number of participants but intensified as the trial was approaching its end. During one such demonstration in Jalalabad on March 5, 2013, around 60 female protesters stormed the Jalalabad provincial administration building and declared that they would stay in the office until the opposition leaders are freed.

A few days later, Ata-Jurt announced plans to organize a large opposition rally in Bishkek on March 13, but later cancelled the gathering claiming that it could be used by other political forces for a violent attack against the current authorities and bringing the country into chaos.

There is no consensus among local political experts and analysts over the significance of the trial and the opposition protests for the overall political situation in the country. Most claim that the opposition demonstrations are of little consequence. According to political analyst Medet Tulegenov, the opposition leaders do not enjoy large public support, whereas the level of anti-government and protest moods among the public is quite low. He noted that small demonstrations will likely continue, however, they are unlikely to develop into massive public rallies.

Other analysts, on the contrary, say that the chances that these small opposition protests will lead to large anti-government demonstrations are high. As the expert Marat Kazakpaev notes, Tashiev is considered to be a hero in southern Kyrgyzstan due to his nationalistic statements in relation to the inter-ethnic conflict in 2010. He enjoys widespread public support in the south and his possible conviction could instigate mass unrest.

Meanwhile, few observers believe that external forces will seek to use these internal political scuffles to interfere with Kyrgyzstan’s domestic politics. Local expert Mars Sariev claims that international players such as the U.S. and Uzbekistan are interested in destabilizing the political situation in the country, which would derail Kyrgyzstan’s economic cooperation with Russia. Both countries stand to lose from intensified economic ties between Kyrgyzstan and Russia and increasing Russian investments in the country, he says.

Verdicts against the opposition leaders will be announced in the nearest future.

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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.

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