Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia

Former Kyrgyz Lawmaker Detained After Rally in Bishkek Goes Awry

A former Kyrgyz lawmaker has been detained after a rally in support of a different jailed former parliamentarian went awry this past weekend.

Catherine Putz
Former Kyrgyz Lawmaker Detained After Rally in Bishkek Goes Awry
Credit: Flickr

Kanybek Osmonaliev, a former Kyrgyz MP, was reportedly detained along with three others by the State Committee for National Security (SCNS or UKMK) and has been placed in pretrial detention. They have not yet been formally charged with attempting a coup but that’s the charge Kyrgyz authorities are leveling. Osmonaliev was among the organizers of a rally on March 2 in support of jailed Kyrgyz politician Sadyr Japarov.

According to 24.kg, a Kyrgyz news outlet, Japarov’s brother Sabyr and activist Amangeldy Artykov were also taken to the SCNS. 

The Japarov saga has deep roots and, given the estimated crowd of 2,000 at the March 2 rally, continues to strike a nerve in Kyrgyzstan.

Japarov returned from exile in Kazakhstan, where he’d been evading arrest in Kyrgyzstan, in late March 2017 and was immediately arrested, sparking protests. He was ultimately sentenced to 11.5 years in prison after being convicted of taking a government official hostage during 2013 protests regarding demands that the Kumtor gold mine be nationalized. 

But Japarov’s troubles began the year before, when he was still an MP. As I covered in 2017:

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In October 2012, Japarov — along with Ata-Jurt head Kamchibek Tashiev and Talant Mamytov — led protests in Bishkek calling for the ouster of then-Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev a week after he refused to nationalize Kumtor.

The nationalist protest went awry when protesters tried to storm parliament… 

The three politicians were arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the government. When the trial ended in March 2013, Tashiev and Japarov were given year and a half sentences and generously credited with time they served while the trial went on and Mamytov was given a year and released shortly after the trial ended…

Japarov was released a few months later, but stripped of his parliament seat…

Later in 2013, protests in favor of nationalizing Kumtor turned violent in Karakol and Japarov was accused of bankrolling the protests and directing, remotely, the kidnapping of the regional governor, Emil Kaptagayev. Japarov fled the country in late 2013 and lived abroad, evading a second arrest…

Now here we are in 2020, with another rally gone awry. Eurasianet has an excellent rundown of where the rally went off the rails: “when a 10-person committee approved by the crowd delivered an ultimatum to a representative of the presidential administration warning that they would take things into their own hands unless Japarov was… released within the day.”

Sabyr, Eurasianet reported, appealed to the crowd to disperse but had little impact as splinter groups turned toward the White House. 

According to the authorities, and RFE/RL’s reports, clashes between protesters and police began after the rally ran past its 5 p.m. end-time as per its demonstration permit. Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up the rally and some protesters responded by throwing rocks.

Police say 166 were detained at the rally and 162 have been released — leaving Osmonaliev, Sabyr Japarov, Artykov, and one other still in detention.

This isn’t Osmonaliev’s first run-in with the law. In October 2018, he was acquitted of abuse of office charges.

Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court cut Japarov’s sentence by 18 months in an April 2019 ruling, but his November 2019 request to President Soornbay Jeenbekov for clemency has not received a response yet.