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Interim govt demands trial for ousted president

Interim Kyrgyz leader Roza Otunbayeva (pictured) said ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev must stand trial, as US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake pledged his support to the transition government during his visit to Bishkek.

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Kyrgyzstan's ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev should be put on trial for actions exceeding his authority and “spilling blood” after scores died in protests last week, the head of the country's interim government said on Wednesday.

“Bakiyev has exceeded the limits of his immunity by spilling blood and now he must be brought to trial and answer before the law,” Roza Otunbayeva said. Bakiyev fled to his Jalalabad stronghold in southern Kyrgyzstan on April 7 amid violent protests that led to at least 84 deaths and saw Otunbayeva’s interim regime to come to power.

Otunbayeva’s comments came after both the United States and Russia signalled tentative support for her government. She held talks with Robert Blake, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, on Wednesday focusing on the options for future Kyrgyz elections, as well as US security concerns.

The former Soviet republic is the site of the Manas air base, which offers vital support to US forces staging military operations in nearby Afghanistan. Flights out of the base have been disrupted in the wake of Kyrgyzstan’s political turmoil.

No guarantee, no exit?

Bishkek’s new rulers have threatened to arrest Bakiyev if he does not voluntarily surrender to authorities. After days of defiance, Bakiyev appeared to relent on Tuesday by saying he would consider resigning, but only on the condition that his security and that of his family would be “guaranteed”.

In light of recent events, however, allowing the entire Bakiyev clan safe access out of the country may not be possible, either politically or materially. As head of the presidential bodyguard service, Bakiyev's brother Dzhanibek Bakiyev has admitted to giving the order to shoot into the crowd during last week’s deadly demonstrations.

“The interim government is not likely to grant immunity to all of Bakiyev's family members,” Eurasia Group analyst Ana Jelenkovic said in a research note obtained by Reuters.

And with the ousted leader waiting along the sidelines, it will be hard for the new leadership to restore stability.

“His presence in the country will hinder the interim government from establishing control in that particular region and tension could easily spike again,” Jelenkovic warned.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Tuesday that Kyrgyzstan was at risk of disintegrating. “As I understand it, Kyrgyzstan is on the verge of civil war,” he told an audience at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C.

‘Optimism’

But other observers have expressed the hope that the impoverished Central Asian republic can find a way out of its current crisis. Speaking to reporters after talks with Otunbayeva this week, Blake said the actions of the interim government so far gave the United States hope.

“I feel optimistic about the steps that the government already has taken,” Blake said.

James Nixey, a Central Asia analyst with the Chatham House think tank in London, notes that Otunbayeva is a political moderate and had held respected international positions in the past, including at the United Nations.

“One can at least have some faith that the country is in steady hands, even though a lot of the activity is beyond her control,” Nixey said.


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