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Press Statement by James P. Rubin, Spokesman
March 23, 2000

Kyrgyzstan: Candidate and Peaceful Protesters Arrested

According to a Kyrgyz Government press statement, on March 22 the Kyrgyz Ministry of National Security arrested opposition politician Feliks Kulov in Bishkek. There are also disturbing reports that Kyrgyz police used force to break up a peaceful demonstration in Kara Buura in Talas province, near Mr. Kulov's electoral district. The participants were protesting irregularities in the February 20 and March 12 rounds of parliamentary elections. Over 100 demonstrators were reportedly arrested, and at least 60 are still in custody.

These actions appear to be politically motivated. Mr. Kulov's arrest seems to be a continuation of the Kyrgyz government's use of judicial proceedings to prevent prominent opposition candidates from participating and/or winning office in the just-completed parliamentary elections. The disruption of the demonstration in Kara Buura is a direct violation of the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Kyrgyz constitution.

These events call into serious question Kyrgyzstan's international commitments to democracy and respect for the rule of law. Allegations that force was used to break up a peaceful political demonstration are especially disturbing. We look to the Government of Kyrgyzstan to investigate these charges, and take appropriate action against those responsible to prevent any recurrence of such incidents. We also urge that all those arrested be afforded judicial due process in accordance with international standards.

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