BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – Prosecutors charged a firebrand nationalist politician Friday with whipping up public disturbances in the capital in an attempt to violently seize power in the turbulent Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan.
Several hundred supporters of Ata-Zhurt leader Kamchibek Tashiyev held a meeting Friday for a second day in the southern town of Jalal-Abad to demand his release.
Two Tashiyev allies, Sadyr Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov, face similar charges over their involvement in crowd trouble Wednesday in the capital, Bishkek, which culminated with a mob trying to seize a building housing parliament and government offices.
The disturbances arose from a rally ostensibly organized to demand the nationalization of an economically vital gold mine, although political analysts have suggested the meeting was a smokescreen for sowing political instability.
Kyrgyzstan, a country of 5 million people on China’s mountainous western border, also hosts a U.S. air base used to support military operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Tashiyev, Zhaparov and Mamytov and politicians were transported from their detention facility for a court hearing late Friday evening under intense police guard.
New tensions in the ex-Soviet republic threatens to reopen fissures between the rural south, where the Ata-Zhurt nationalist party has its power base, and the more urbanized north, where the capital is located.
Ata-Zhurt is the largest party in the turbulent ex-Soviet republic’s parliament, although it is not in the governing coalition. Many southerners cite this as evidence of a northern bias among the nation’s leadership.
Kyrgyz news agency AkiPress reported from Jalal-Abad that backers of the arrested Ata-Zhurt politicians had erected two traditional yurts in the center and blocked a key highway skirting the town.
Kyrgyzstan has seen the overthrow of two governments in its short history since gaining independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
President Askar Akayev was cast out of power in May 2005 after a weeks-long sit-in protest against corruption and misrule in the center of the capital.
Five years later, several dozen were shot dead by government troops when angry mobs attacked the presidential administration building in unrest that led to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s ouster.
The constitution introduced in 2010 created a more even balance of power between parliament and the presidency aimed at avoiding the emergence of an authoritarian leadership.
Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, a southerner from the country’s second city of Osh, was appointed to office last month with the backing of the three-party governing coalition.
Some politicians, including Tashiyev, who was still being questioned by the security services late Wednesday, have argued that Kyrgyzstan needs to revert to a more presidential model of governance.
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