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Contract Killings


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Three former senior Kyrgyz officials, accused of key roles in dozens of murders in the uprising that deposed Kurman Bakiyev as president

An ambulance packed with people injured after police opened fire on protesters in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan last April, killing 87: 22 people are now standing trial accused of aiding or committing murder.
Three former senior Kyrgyz officials, accused of key roles in dozens of murders in the uprising that deposed Kurman Bakiyev as president, have fled their homes to avoid standing trial, a prosecutor said today.

The uprising in the capital Bishkek in April triggered a wave of violence in the ethnically divided central Asian nation, which borders China and is home to US and Russian airbases.

The trial of 22 former government officials and security officers collapsed in chaos when it opened on last week, and the defendants were evacuated after dozens of relatives of the dead, calling for their execution, clashed with police.

When the trial resumed in Bishkek's Palace of Sports today, a prosecutor announced that Bakiyev's prosecutor-general, his former chief of staff and the head of his secretariat had fled their apartments with their families for an unknown destination.

Most of the accused are under house arrest, but it is not clear if their apartments are guarded by security officers. The judge ordered the fugitives to be seized and taken into custody.

Two of the accused – Bakiyev's defence minister, Baktybek Kalyev, and deputy chief of the security guard, Nurlan Temirbekov – are being tried in a metal cage standing on a podium.

Six other people on the run, including Bakiyev who is sheltering in Belarus, his brother, his son, his prime minister and security police chief, are being tried in absentia. Officials say 87 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded on 7 April when Bakiyev ordered his special forces to shoot into angry crowds storming government headquarters.

In May, demonstrators seized administrative buildings in the south of the Muslim state, and in June 400 people were killed in the worst ethnic riots in its modern history.

The accused are charged with aiding or committing murder and face from 10 years to life imprisonment.

The trial is designed to be a showcase of Kyrgyz justice after the overthrow of the Bakiyev clan, but rights groups have urged the interim leader, Roza Otunbayeva, to halt proceedings, saying improper pressure was put on the accused and their lawyers.

The defence lawyers filed protests after the first session of the court, asking for state protection and saying they had received death threats from relatives of the dead.

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