Kyrgyz police detain 100 at rally for jailed politician

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Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) (AFP)

Police in Kyrgyzstan on Monday broke up a demonstration in support of a jailed opposition politician and detained around 100 protesters.

Police officers held around 100 people after the rally, by supporters of nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov in the capital Bishkek, descended into clashes, said interior ministry spokesman Bakyt Seitov.

"We will work until morning to filter through the detained. It is possible that some of them were just passers-by," Seitov told AFP.

Ex-MP Japarov is serving a 10-year sentence after a court in the Central Asian country convicted him of taking a former regional governor hostage during a rally to nationalise a key gold mine.

He condemned his trial as politically motivated.

Police began to break up the rally, in a central square, at around 6:00 pm (1200 GMT), using water cannon and stun grenades after the crowd of more than 1,000 people began to move towards the main seat of government.

Police said they had previously warned the demonstrators to disperse.

Protesters hurled stones at police as they ran from the square and witnesses said they saw police make several arrests.

An AFP correspondent said the area where the clashes took place was quiet by 7:00 pm as traffic resumed along the city's main thoroughfare.

Bishkek's Ala-Too Square, where Japarov's supporters gathered, was the site of two uprisings that toppled successive presidents in 2005 and 2010.

Muslim-majority Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished country of six million people, looks to Russia to bolster its security and China for trade and investment.

The mountainous country's economy is heavily dependent on the output of a single gold mine along with agricultural exports.