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Kyrgyz civil rights activists protest detentions of opposition leaders
By LEILA SARALAYEVA
Associated Press
2007-04-25 06:55 PM
Kyrgyz civil rights activists on Wednesday protested the detention of opposition leaders following a days-long anti-government rally that police forcibly broke up in the former Soviet republic last week.

Three opposition leaders, including former Interior Minister Omurbek Suvanaliyev, have been detained on suspicion of organizing mass disorder since police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters outside President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's headquarters last Thursday. They remained in custody.

About two dozen civil rights activists picketed the National Security Committee building, holding signs that read: "No to 1937" _ a reference to the height of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's political purges.

In Suvanaliyev's home village in the northern Talas region, about 300 people protested his detention for a second day Wednesday.

The opposition has accused authorities of inciting violence among protesters to create a pretext for the crackdown, which ended nine straight days of demonstrations in Bishkek by opposition supporters calling for Bakiyev's resignation.

Eight policemen and seven protesters were wounded, authorities said, and 36 activists have since been arrested.

Authorities also seized print runs of three opposition newspapers, and an opposition-linked Web site was put out of service by an electronic attack _ moves that drew U.S. criticism.

The opposition Ata Meken party has said masked police raided its office and beat employees, including pulling women by the hair, as well as seizing equipment.

The Central Asian nation of 5 million people has been plagued by political tension since street protests forced longtime President Askar Akayev out of office in March 2005. Bakiyev, who was elected after Akayev's removal, has been under growing pressure to resign amid accusations of corruption and cronyism.

Both the United States and Russia have air bases in Kyrgyzstan, making the prospect of political instability in the country a major concern. The U.S. base supports combat operations in nearby Afghanistan. Russia's was established under a regional security treaty.

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