Kyrgyzstan: opposition leader survives attack

More than a year after Kyrgyzstan’s “Tulip Revolution,” the supposed democratic renewal isn’t looking too good, is it? President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, so recently a revolutionary leader, now warns against “lawlessness and anarchy” like a good despot. But is he Washington’s son of a bitch now? Or are the neocons planning yet another revolution, deeming him insufficiently compliant? From Reuters, April 14:

BISHKEK – Human Rights Watch called on Kyrgyzstan on Friday to hold a thorough inquiry into the attack on a prominent rights activist, linking the assault to his campaign against crime in the Central Asian state.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished country bordering China, has been plagued by instability and crime since violent protests toppled veteran leader Askar Akayev last year.

The attack against Edil Baisalov, who has criticised the new government for not doing enough to restore law and order, came at a time when the West is concerned with the growing political clout of criminal gangs in the former Soviet state.

“This is a shocking attempt on the life of a respected human rights defender and champion of the rule of law,” Holly Cartner, director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, said in a statement.

“The government of Kyrgyzstan must bring the perpetrator to justice and show that such violence will not be tolerated.”

Baisalov received head injuries during an attack by an unknown attacker on Wednesday. He had lobbied against a former prisoner, Ryspek Akmatbayev, taking a seat in parliament.

Officials have said the attack was linked to Baisalov’s professional activities. Akmatbayev’s lawyer has denied his client might have been behind the assault.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power after Akayev’s ouster, has been criticised by opponents for not taking a harsher stance against crime. On Friday, he urged his government not to allow Kyrgyzstan to slip into anarchy.

“Some politicians see democracy as lawlessness and anarchy. You can’t mix these two notions,” said Bakiyev, elected in July on promises to bring stability and order.

“We have two problems today: poverty and corruption. Saying that corruption levels have not fallen in the past year is rubbish used by some politicians seeking to mar the new regime.”

Baisalov, who leads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, is in hospital with a skull fracture and concussion.

Akmatbayev has risen to prominence since his brother, a parliamentarian, was shot during prison riots last year. Akmatbayev was charged with murdering a policeman but was acquitted this year.

Sentenced to jail terms twice in the 1990s for assault, theft and other crimes, he won a by-election on April 9 for his brother’s seat, but officials threatened to disqualify his victory due to an appeal against the murder acquittal.

See our last posts on Kyrgyzstan and the Great Game for Central Asia.