BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – A court in Kyrgyzstan on Friday found three nationalist opposition lawmakers guilty of attempting to violently overthrow the government, but sentenced them to relatively short prison terms.
The three were arrested in October after protesters clashed with police and tried to break into a building housing the parliament and government offices in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek.
The disturbances arose from a rally to demand the nationalization of an economically vital gold mine.
Prosecutors had asked for sentences of up to 10 years in prison. But the judge sentenced nationalist leader Kamchibek Tashiyev and one other defendant to 18 months in prison, while the third defendant received a one-year sentence.
About 400 of Tashiyev’s supporters rallied outside the courthouse on Friday calling for him to be freed, and riot police were called in to maintain order. His supporters have held numerous protests since the trial began in January.
Tashiyev’s overt nationalism is viewed by some as a destabilizing factor in a country that has been riven by ethnic discord. Hundreds of people died in clashes in 2010 between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in the south of the Central Asian country, where Tashiyev draws much of his support.
Kyrgyzstan has seen the overthrow of two governments since it gained independence as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Because in Kyrgyzstan each day in detention counts as two days toward a prison sentence, Tashiyev and Sadyr Zhaparov will be due for release in six months. The third defendant, Talant Mamytov, will finish serving his sentence in April.
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