3 Mar 2020 18:37

Police who dispersed rally in Bishkek were protecting people's right to peaceful life - Kyrgyz president

BISHKEK. March 3 (Interfax) - The police officials who dispersed Monday's gathering in support of Sadyr Zhaparov, a former Kyrgyz parliamentarian now convicted on hostage-taking charges, were performing their duty to enforce law and order, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said at a Kyrgyz Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

"Police yesterday fully performed their duties. They protected the people's right to a peaceful life and enforced order in the city," the presidential press service quoted Jeenbekov as saying.

"As the head of state, I'll repeat: public peace is above all. All issues will be settled within the legal framework, and the language of ultimatums won't be accepted. The law must be observed in the country," he said.

The state is obliged to protect the people's peaceful lives, Jeenbekov said. "The primary duty of the interior bodies is to ensure the people's peaceful lives," he said.

More than 2,000 supporters of former Kyrgyz member of parliament Sadyr Zhaparov, who was convicted in 2017 on hostage-taking charges, gathered for a rally in central Bishkek on Monday, after which they attempted to break into the building housing the Kyrgyz presidential office in order to demand his liberation. This prompted police to begin dispersing the rally and detaining its participants.

About 500 policemen and special operations troops were involved in the dispersal, using tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons.

Following the clashes, the National Security Committee opened a criminal case on a count of "attempt to violently seize power."

The brother of opposition politician Sadyr Zhaparov, Sabyr Zhaparov, activist Amangeldy Artykov, and former member of the Kyrgyz parliament Kanybek Osmonaliyev were brought to the committee.

Osmonaliyev, a co-organizer of the rally and former parliamentarian, has been placed at the National Security Committee's detention facility on suspicion of attempting to violently seize power.

According to the Interior Ministry, 166 protesters were taken to local police stations in Bishkek following the clashes; 162 of them were let go after their IDs were checked, and four others were taken into custody. The riots left 24 police officials injured.

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry said three civilians also requested medical attention following the clashes in central Bishkek.

The city police department has opened a pretrial inquiry on a count of mass unrest.

Emilbek Kaptagayev, head of the Issyk-Kul region, was taken hostage at a rally demanding the nationalization of the gold mine Kumtor in the city of Karakol in the Issyk-Kul region in 2013. Zhaparov was charged with organizing the rally in Karakul. The opposition activist lived abroad several years following this. He was detained after returning to his homeland in March 2017.

The politician's arrest drew protests. A March 25, 2017 rally at the building of the State National Security Committee ended in the dispersal of protesters. Police said the protest was stopped due to aggressive behavior on the part of the protestors.

On August 2, 2017, the Bishkek Pervomaisky District Court sentenced Zhaparov to 11.5 years in a high-security penal colony. He was found guilty of hostage-taking.

On October 16, 2019, Zhaparov sent the Kyrgyz president a request for pardon, saying his family was in a difficult situation. He has still not received a response.

The secretariat of the Kyrgyz presidential commission on pardon issues earlier told Interfax that Zhaparov's pardon request was being processed by the State Penitentiary Service.

The Kyrgyz Prosecutor General's office said on February 6, that Zhaparov was not eligible for parole under the Criminal Code in the 2017 edition.