WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 463, September 12, 2006
KYRGYZSTAN ROCKED BY SMEAR SCANDAL The president sacks his brother after
allegations he was involved in planting heroin to compromise a prominent
politician. By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek
KAZAKSTAN: SARSENBAEV MURDER TRIAL A "FARCE" There were so many apparent
irregularities in the case that few have any confidence in the conviction. By
Gaziza Baituova in Taraz
KYRGYZSTAN: RURAL COMMUNITIES SEEK SHARE IN PROSPERITY Industry asked to put
some of its profits back into local development. By Aziza Turdueva in Bishkek
TURKMENISTAN: PRESSED INTO SERVICE Recruiters will take anyone, no matter how
unfit, to fill the ranks of an army whose main job is to provide a free labour
force. By IWPR staff in London
UZBEK BORDER TOWN RESIDENTS EVICTED Residents say they are losing their homes
to a scheme to create a security zone separating Uzbek territory from
Kyrgyzstan. By IWPR staff in London
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KYRGYZSTAN ROCKED BY SMEAR SCANDAL
The president sacks his brother after allegations he was involved in planting
heroin to compromise a prominent politician.
By Taalaibek Amanov in Bishkek
Kyrgyzstan's political establishment has been shaken by more allegations in the
case of Omurbek Tekebaev, a leading opposition politician believed to have been
targeted in a dirty tricks campaign.
President Kurmanbek Bakiev has sacked his brother Janysh as deputy head of the
secret police or National Security Service, SNB, after parliament got hold of a
document alleging he had ordered drugs to be planted in Tekebaev's luggage as
he left on a trip abroad.
The Kyrgyz parliament drafted a resolution on September 12 calling for the
resignations of Bakiev, Prime Minister Felix Kulov, and other government
Tekebaev, who resigned as speaker of parliament earlier this year, was
arrested by Polish border guards on September 6 after they found 595 grams of
heroin in his suitcase on arrival in Warsaw. The drugs were stuffed inside a
"matrioshka" - the familiar Russian wooden toy which usually has smaller dolls
nesting inside it.
With such strong material evidence, the Poles placed Tekebaev in custody and
charged him with smuggling narcotics.
But the authorities in Poland - like Kyrgyzstan, a country with a recent
communist past - took a closer look at the matter, and on September 8, a
district court in Warsaw dropped all charges and released Tekebaev. He was, the
court said, "an active opposition figure in a country where the struggle for
democracy has not ended", and as such, there was reason to believe the drugs
had been planted on him to discredit him.
Tekebaev stepped down as speaker of parliament in February 2006 and has since
become an increasingly vocal critic of President Kurmanbek Bakiev's
administration. He remains a member of parliament.
Central Asian parliaments are generally the tame instruments of the ruling
elite, but Kyrgyzstan's legislature has broken the mould by seizing the
initiative and driving forward the process of disclosure, however uncomfortable
the results may prove for senior officials.
On September 8, the assembled members of parliament were treated to a showing
of footage from the closed-circuit cameras installed at Manas, Bishkek's
In the film, Tekebaev's luggage is separated from that of two other members of
his delegation after they check in together on September 5. For no obvious
reason, his bag is taken off somewhere out of sight of the cameras for 14
minutes, and is then brought back to rejoin the others. A uniformed airport
security service officer is seen carrying the bag when it disappears and
reappears, and the same man is present as it passes through a security X-ray
Parliament immediately set up a 10-member commission to look into the case.
Beyond the issues of what had happened and which airport personnel were
involved, the unspoken question was whether some more senior figure had ordered
drugs to be planted on Tekebaev.
As if the CCTV film was not enough, there was more to come when the
parliamentary commission convened on September 11.
The investigating commission produced a written statement from Nadyr Mamyrov,
the deputy director of Manas airport, alleging that Janysh Bakiev personally
instructed him to arrange a smear operation against Tekebaev. The commission
said it also had a video recording in which Mamyrov gave the same testimony.
Mamyrov told commission members that he wrote his statement in the presence of
both President Bakiev and SNB chief Busurmankul Tabaldiev.
This explosive testimony was not made public the day Mamyrov wrote it -
September 8 - when Tabaldiev told reporters merely that his agency had nothing
to do with the case, and wanted to investigate it urgently.
Tabaldiev appeared in parliament on September 12 to announce that he was
stepping down, and that his deputy Janysh Bakiev had been dismissed by
Parliament went on to draft a strongly-worded resolution which will be put the
vote on September 14, calling for the resignations of the president, the prime
minister and the rest of the government including the interior minister and the
remaining deputy heads of the SNB. In addition, it demands the recall of two
other Bakiev brothers - Marat, who is currently Kyrgyz ambassador to Germany,
and Adyl, a counsellor at the country's Beijing embassy.
If the government does not comply with the resolution, parliament is warning
that it will declare September 15 a day of civil disobedience.
President Bakiev has ordered a new government commission - separate from the
parliamentary body - to be set up to look into the case.
The scandal is clearly a huge embarrassment for President Bakiev, who confirmed
his brother's appointment as deputy head of the SNB in March this year.
Bakiev presides over a political environment that remains unsettled a year and
a half after the March 2005 revolution that ousted his predecessor Askar Akaev.
He has lost some support among the core constituency of former opposition
figures - Tekebaev among them - who were his allies in the revolution. Many of
them now accuse his administration of achieving little in the way of democratic
and economic progress.
To win election in July 2005, Bakiev forged an alliance with another opposition
politician, Felix Kulov, even though the two were not seen as natural allies.
After the election, they continued working together, one as president and the
other as prime minister.
That relationship - known as the "tandem" in Kyrgyzstan - may now be under
Kulov, who last week said he was "100 per cent convinced" that Tekebaev was the
innocent victim of a dirty trick, appeared in parliament on September 12, where
he said, "Janysh Bakiev has let down not just the president but the whole
Parliamentarians wanted to summon President Bakiev himself, but he declined,
saying he had other commitments for the day.
Tekebaev had earlier arrived in parliament after flying into Bishkek overnight.
The applause that greeted him reflected the sympathy he has been shown during
this scandal. From the outset, there has been a rare degree of unanimity among
politicians that he was no drug smuggler.
Among the opposition, there was always a suspicion that someone in a position
of authority was behind the incident, and that Tekebaev was targeted as he is a
particularly high-profile government critic. As well as being ex-chairman of
parliament, he heads the Ata-Meken Socialist Party and is co-chairman of an
opposition umbrella group, the Movement for Reform.
In a letter to the European Parliament late last week, the Movement for Reform
said, "We are certain that this drug was planted by Kyrgyz security services
with the sole aim of discrediting an opposition leader and removing him from
the political scene."
Bolot Baikojoev, a former member of parliament who like Tekebaev, has become
disillusioned with the Bakiev-led government, also blamed the security services
and said, "Tekebaev is a possible presidential candidate and a leader of the
opposition, so the present regime decided to neutralise him - and it did so in
a dirty, primitive manner."
Opposition politicians pointed to the timing of the incident, just as political
activity was about to be stepped up after a quiet summer. On September 17,
opposition groups will gather in the southern town of Aksy for a "kurultai" or
assembly at which the Movement for Reforms will play a prominent role.
Taalaibek Amanov is the pseudonym of an independent journalist in Bishkek.
Aziza Turdueva, a correspondent for Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of
RFE/RL, provided additional reporting.
KAZAKSTAN: SARSENBAEV MURDER TRIAL A "FARCE"
There were so many apparent irregularities in the case that few have any
confidence in the conviction.
By Gaziza Baituova in Taraz
The trial and conviction last week of ten people for the murder of a prominent
opposition leader, Altynbek Sarsenbaev, has been dismissed by many here as a
The high-profile trial delivered its verdict on August 31, with the alleged
ringleaders of the group Rustam Ibragimov, a former security officer, and the
ex-head of the parliamentary administration, Erjan Utembaev, sentenced to death
and jailed for 20 years respectively.
One other defendant received a 20-year prison term, while the remainder are to
serve between three and 11 years. Ibragimov is likely to face life
imprisonment, as there is a moratorium on capital punishment.
Sarsenbaev, a former information minister and ex-ambassador to Russia, was
found dead on the outskirts of Almaty on February 12. The bodies of his driver
and bodyguard were discovered nearby.
Many saw Sarsenbaev, one of the co-leaders of the Naghyz Ak Jol party, as a
uniquely influential figure who provided intellectual and strategic direction
for the opposition.
He also spoke out stridently against government corruption, naming many
important names - and no doubt making a few enemies along the way.
In the days after his death, the Kazak leadership reacted swiftly arresting
several senior government and security figures, in an apparent attempt to
counter opposition claims that it was behind the murder.
But the speed with which the case has proceeded has fueled fears amongst the
Kazak public and western diplomats that it has been heavily subject to
political bias and is flawed as a result.
"There is more than enough evidence to consider this trial a judicial farce and
a political order," said one of the leaders of the Kazak opposition Tulegen
Jukeev, reflecting a broadly held view.
The defendants have long maintained that they were "set up" by powerful figures
within the government.
Throughout the trial, the lawyers representing the defendants repeatedly
complained to the press about alleged falsification of evidence and other
violations of judicial process. All the accused dismissed testimony they had
provided in the investigation stage as having been elicited under pressure.
Adil Jalilov, director of the international journalism centre MediaNet,
believes the case follows an established pattern of politically-motivated
trials. "Other cases also lacked evidence, but experience shows that this has
no serious consequences for the Kazak leadership," he said.
Leading Kazak human rights campaigner Evgeny Jovtis believes that ordinary
people suspect that the defendants, whether guilty or not, were not the
"I assume that the public will feel that the accused have some connection with
the crime one way or another, but I think society understands that they are not
the main figures in the case and Mr Utembaev is not the one who ordered the
murder. The trial has not been objective [or] complete," he said.
Analysts believe the trial was rushed so that it would not drag on into the
next parliamentary session. Eduard Polotaev, the editor-in-chief of the
international journal The World of Eurasia, said the authorities are hoping the
matter is now closed. "The trial has provoked a lot of debates in
society..[but now] a line has been drawn [under the matter]," he said.
The prominent politician and editor-in-chief of the national newspaper The
Freedom of Speech, Guljan Ergalieva, believes the case has underlined the view
held by many here that trying to obtain justice for the victims of political
crimes is virtually impossible.
Although the political analyst Andrey Chebotarev does not discount the
possibility of the convicted men revealing the names of those who bear most
responsibility for the killing.
"Maybe some of the accused who were silent during the trial will find the
courage in future or will take revenge by naming the people who are really
guilty of the murder," he said.
Ergalieva believes the international community must take account of this trial
and other miscarriages of justice before making overtures towards Kazakstan,
such as recent German remarks about Astana's bid for the chairmanship of the
Germany released an official letter stating that denying Kazakstan the
chairmanship on the grounds that it does not match up to democratic ideals
could have serious political consequences, possibly alienating energy-rich
nations of the former Soviet Union.
"It is necessary of the world community to apply to Kazakstan the same
political, economic and other pressure mechanisms that are applied to
dictatorships such as Belarus and Uzbekistan," said Ergalieva.
Gaziza Baituova is an IWPR reporter in Taraz.
KYRGYZSTAN: RURAL COMMUNITIES SEEK SHARE IN PROSPERITY
Industry asked to put some of its profits back into local development.
By Aziza Turdueva in Bishkek
The "people power" that drove last year's revolution in Kyrgyzstan is still
there - only now it is focused on local concerns. Across the country,
impoverished communities are trying to secure a stake in local industries, or
at least some of the income they generate.
In the latest action, people in the Toktogul district of central Kyrgyzstan
have asked the government to give them a ten per cent share in two
hydroelectric stations currently under construction.
The Kambarata-1 and -2 plants, both incomplete, sit further up the river Naryn
from the giant Toktogul dam, a Soviet-era plant whose turbines generate most of
the country's electricity.
Local people argue that having a share of the two new plants' assets would
offset the damage they envisage the construction work will do to the
environment and the local economy.
Hydroelectric power is a key resource in this mountainous country, and offers
the prospect of significant revenues if exports of electricity to neighbouring
countries can be increased.
Their demands have been backed by the district council, an elected local
government body, which had put forward some demands of its own: it wants an
assessment of ecological and other damage done by the older Toktogul power
station and reservoir over the years. The costs would then be paid out to
residents by the country's major power station operator.
The groundswell at Toktogul and other places where communities are demanding a
share in industry seems driven by endemic rural poverty - sharpened by a sense
that local residents do not benefit from profitable enterprises, yet are
vulnerable to environmental problems.
Previous successes may have given heart to Toktogul's residents. After a
cyanide spill eight years ago, inhabitants of the village of Barskoon near Lake
Issykkul mounted protests and eventually won compensation from the Kumtor gold
At Karakeche, where the country's biggest coalfields are situated, a local
leader, Nurlan Motuev, seized control of mines last year and provided nearby
villages with free coal. Motuev was ousted earlier this year, but residents of
Jumgal district are still demanding that they should pay discount prices for
Rural areas of Kyrgyzstan are desperately under-funded, with poor roads, and
shortages of schools, clinics, and clean drinking water. Local government can
barely sustain itself financially, let alone undertake infrastructure projects
So targeting major enterprises, especially those with foreign investors, offers
communities a rare opportunity for fundraising.
For example, Chinese investors are prospecting for gold at the Togolok pass in
Issykkul region, close to the border with China, and their proposals to build
two plants in the area have led to demands for money to build a hospital and
school and lay on running water in the village of Uchkoshkon.
Kurmanbek Dyikanbaev, who heads Kyrgyzstan's Association of Rural Communities
and Villages, believes the government should introduce new rules according to
which mining contracts would stipulate that a proportion of revenues are spent
on local development.
"The draft contract would set out money for the region or district where a
mining and processing plant was to be built. Then the government would
guarantee that the arrangements were carried out," he explained.
At the same time, Dyikanbaev accepts that sometimes people make demands that go
beyond what is reasonable.
Kubanychbek Isabekov, a member of the Kyrgyz parliament, believes taxation laws
could be changed to allow some tax revenues from industrial plants to be spent
on social, ecological and infrastructure development in the areas where they
Isabekov too favours direct payments by investors into the local economy.
"Foreign investors need to be on good terms with residents of the area. They
need to make concessions to the proposals or demands made by local people," he
One example - even before any legislation has been enacted - shows how this
might be done. The British-based Oxus Gold, developing the Jeruy gold seam, has
agreed with the regional government in Talas province that three million US
dollars should be earmarked for local development projects. At the same time, a
lower tier of local government in Bekmoldo, the actual site of the gold
refining plant, is still demanding compensation for environmental damage.
Aziza Turdueva is a correspondent for Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of
RFE/RL in Bishkek.
TURKMENISTAN: PRESSED INTO SERVICE
Recruiters will take anyone, no matter how unfit, to fill the ranks of an army
whose main job is to provide a free labour force.
By IWPR staff in London
Army conscription officers in Turkmenistan are casting their net ever wider.
However, the expanded recruitment drive is not to build a huge fighting
machine, but to provide an army of free labour for a struggling economy.
IWPR has learned that the military is even calling up people with disabilities
in its desperate attempt to meet manpower quotas.
When 18-year-old wheelchair user Andrei Alekseyev in the eastern city of
Turkmenabat, received call-up papers in May this year, his grandmother Maria
Alekseyeva phoned the authorities to explain that his congenital spinal defect
meant he would never be combat-fit.
The military officials who visited Andrei still insisted he had to submit a
medical certificate declaring him unfit for service. He was only able to get
the document in August, from a special medical commission that convenes once a
Dursun Orazova recalled how her son Sapar was called up last year and served in
military unit in the capital Ashgabat. He has extremely poor vision, but was
only discharged from the army after his family obtained a certificate showing
his progressive myopic condition from the institute of ophthalmology.
Although Turkmenistan sits in a volatile region, with Iran, Afghanistan and
Uzbekistan as unstable neighbours, these young men are in demand not to fight
but to plug gaps in the public sector.
Turkmen president Saparmurat Niazov has sacked thousands of workers in recent
years, apparently to save on government expenditure, even though the country
should be earning a healthy income from gas and cotton sales abroad.
Within the last two years, around 15,000 healthcare workers have been dismissed
from hospitals across the country and replaced by army conscripts. The traffic
police became part of the defence ministry a couple of years ago, so untrained
recruits now do the job. There are also truck drivers, railwaymen and
street-sweepers drafted in from the military, under an organised system where
government ministries are allotted a quota of soldiers to be used as free
According to one army recruitment officer, "Today soldiers [work as] nurses in
the hospitals, they are sent to guard industrial plants and office buildings,
they work as firemen and traffic policemen. The list of duties is a long one.
"That's why we have to call up everyone, to fulfil the conscription quota."
In a report earlier this year, the Turkmenistan Initiative for Human Rights, a
group based abroad, said an estimated 75 per cent of men of conscription age
were now being called up. This represents a huge increase on the 35 to 45 per
cent call-up rate in the Soviet Union.
The difference clearly includes disabled people like Sapar Dursunov and Andrei
Alexeev. It also includes men who would previously have been exempted because
of family circumstances. A law introduced in 2002 abolished the traditional
justifications for not joining up, for example for the son of a single mother,
or the father of two children.
It is not clear exactly how big the armed forces of Turkmenistan are - the
number was thought to stand at around 30,000 in the Nineties but is believed to
have increased since then, by some estimates up to 100,0000.
In 2002, the armed forces chief of staff promised to deploy up to 25,000 men in
the public sector, a figure which may have increased considerably since the
recent dismissals of hospital staff.
Despite the recruitment officers' best efforts, it seems that they are failing
to keep pace with the need. One regimental-strength unit guarding bridges
across the river Amu Darya in the east of the country now has just 300
conscripts men instead of 2,000 it used to have. A company used for
construction work in Ashgabat has only half of its complement of 120 men.
Perhaps it is just as well that the thousands of workmen in uniform are
generally unarmed. In the Soviet military, basic literacy was requirement for
army service, but the Turkmen army no longer sets this standard.
"There are soldiers who can't read well and aren't able to write a letter to
their parents," said senior lieutenant Altybay Kakabaev. "Anyone who is
literate gets sent to the command headquarters where they have to handle
Rahmatulla Usmanov, a resident of Lebap region, recalled what happened when he
was pulled over by one of the new breed of traffic policemen - in reality an
"I knew I hadn't broken any traffic regulations so I asked him to fill in a
report saying what he believed the violation was," he said.
Twenty minutes, the soldier emerged from the police checkpoint building and
handed Usmanov a form which had a few boxes ticked but was otherwise blank.
"When I asked why the form wasn't filled in, he said he'd finish it later. But
I realised he was unable to write," he said.
(The names of people speaking in this article have been changed out of concern
for their security.)
UZBEK BORDER TOWN RESIDENTS EVICTED
Residents say they are losing their homes to a scheme to create a security zone
separating Uzbek territory from Kyrgyzstan.
By IWPR staff in London
The Uzbek authorities are tearing a swathe through the eastern town of Qorasuv
to create a security zone on the border with Kyrgyzstan, and residents say they
are not being offered adequate compensation.
The border runs along the river Shahrikhansay, which cuts straight through the
town. The opposite bank is Kyrgyzstan, and the town there is known as Karasuu.
The house clearance programme is designed to leave an uninhabited zone where
Uzbek border guards will have a clear view of anyone trying to cross illegally.
Qorasuv/Karasuu is an important crossing point because the Kyrgyz part of town
is home to Central Asia's largest wholesale market, where tens of thousands of
people from the region, and many from western China, come to trade clothes and
The market has provided jobs in both parts of town, but its presence has also
created problems for residents over the years. In 2003, the Uzbek government -
on a drive to restrict imports and stop money flowing out of the country to buy
them - sealed the border and demolished part of the road bridge spanning the
In May 2005, following the violent quelling of a demonstration in nearby city
of Andijan, Qorasuv residents took matters into their own hands and reopened
the bridge. Although police crushed the revolt and imposed stringent security
at the crossing.
There are two streets where homes are subject to demolition: Dustlik Street,
which is being widened to 60 metres to improve access to the road bridge; and
Shahrikhansay Street parallel to the river, where a 50-metre frontier strip is
to be cleared.
Both the Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments are concerned about Islamic militancy,
and observers say the measures are an attempt to monitor the flow of people
"The Uzbek authorities are insuring themselves against any of their enemies
crossing the border, from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to other religious
groups," said a human rights activist did not want to be named. "Qorasuv is the
most dangerous zone, because an extremist can bribe border guards here and
enter Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. The Karasuu market has always been a place of
refuge not just for smugglers, but for anyone who crossing the border without
the proper documents."
Residents on the Uzbek side who depend on cross-border trade for their living
fear that the measures could be a first step to sealing the frontier again.
Nor are they happy with the replacement homes they have been offered as
compensation. Each household will get a two-room house on a small plot of land
in. The authorities promised that the all-new housing development in Qorasuv
will have every amenity, but the problem is that evictions have begun before
all 175 homes have been built.
"A lot of people are unhappy about this, mainly because they started
demolishing the old houses before construction of the new ones was completed."
said Qorasuv resident Rahim Ahmedov. "Why do they need to do it in such a
Many say the housing the town authorities are offering is nothing like the
value of the homes they have lost. One man complained that he was having to
swap a 14-room home on Shahrikhansay Street for a miserly two rooms.
Another man complained about the compensation being offered. "They're saying
here's 3.5 million sums [about 3,250 US dollars], take this 0.6 hectare plot of
land and build a house yourself," he said. "A few women got angry about this -
and ended up in jail for 15 days, with 50,000 som fines."
"If the state gave us housing worth the same as our homes, or fully covered the
amount we spent on construction, there wouldn't be so much anger," said a woman
who works in a local shop. "We saved up for so many years and built such
beautiful houses. And now we have to start from scratch again. Isn't that a
(The names of interviewees have been changed or omitted out of concern for
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