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Politicians, Civic Groups Denounce Attack on Kyrgyzstan's Top Activist

Edil Baisalov, who was injured in an apparent assassination bid, led recent street protests.

April 14, 2006|David Holley | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Civic activists and national leaders in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday condemned an apparent assassination attempt on Edil Baisalov, the country's most prominent campaigner for democracy and human rights.

Baisalov, who heads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, a network of pro-democracy groups, was attacked while leaving his office Wednesday evening, suffering a head injury. Doctors said Thursday that his condition was satisfactory and that he was expected to recover.

It was initially believed that Baisalov had been shot, but the doctors were unsure whether the wound was caused by a bullet or a blow to the back of his head. They said he had suffered a 2-inch gash, a concussion and blood loss.

"I only heard a clap and lost consciousness for some time," Baisalov told reporters Thursday, according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. "At first, I thought someone had thrown a stone at me."

Baisalov declared that he would not be intimidated, and he called on other activists to carry on with their efforts.

A joint statement released Thursday by about 25 political parties and civic groups urged citizens to unite against criminal activity that has worsened since a citizens revolt against corruption and alleged electoral fraud brought the country's former opposition to power last year.

"It's time we woke up and realized that this shot was fired on our dreams of a free and prosperous Kyrgyzstan," the statement said. "We call on everyone who is not indifferent to the fate of our country to unite against this raging crime."

Baisalov was among the activists who triggered last year's uprising -- dubbed the Tulip Revolution for the flowers in bloom at the time. In recent months, he has led growing criticism of current authorities for failing to crack down harder on organized crime.

Prime Minister Felix Kulov visited Baisalov at the hospital Wednesday evening and told reporters there was no doubt the attack was political.

"We can no longer tolerate this situation," Kulov added Thursday. "We have become a laughingstock in the eyes of the international community."

After Kulov and President Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power at the helm of the March 2005 people's revolt, they expressed hope that the country's new democratic image, together with planned economic reforms, would lead to a sharp inflow of foreign investment. But those hopes have been dashed.

In recent weeks, Baisalov led street protests aimed at preventing a reputed organized crime boss, Ryspek Akmatbayev, from entering parliament. Akmatbayev was allowed to run in an election for a parliament seat on Sunday despite having been convicted of setting up a criminal gang and possession of illegal arms. After Akmatbayev won, Baisalov said his group would take legal action aimed at annulling the victory.

Bakiyev called Thursday for a prompt investigation into the attack. "Some politicians do not like the stability in our country and use all possible means to destabilize the situation," he said, in comments reported by the Kyrgyz news agency AKIpress.

Baisalov was reportedly aware that his activities put his life in danger and had asked parliamentary deputies to assist him in arranging for bodyguards. Melis Eshimkanov, a member of parliament, told Itar-Tass that Baisalov had several times noticed "some suspicious types hanging around" and that he had been chased twice.

Baisalov was among the leaders of a rally Saturday in Bishkek, the capital, that demanded authorities crack down on organized crime and carry out reforms transferring some presidential powers to parliament.

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