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 
ministers.

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 
international airport. 

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 
machine. 

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 
presidential decree. 

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 
strain. 

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 
country." 

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 
judicial farce.

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 
principal culprits.

"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 
OSCE.  

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 
mining company.

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 
their coal. 

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 
are located.

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 
said.

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 
year. 

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 
labour. 

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 
documents."

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 
army conscript. 

"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 
household items. 

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 
river. 

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 
more carefully. 

"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 
hurry?" 

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 
shame?"

(The names of interviewees have been changed or omitted out of concern for 
their security.)

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REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA No. 463

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