Bishkek (AsiaNews) – Activists were arrested for taking part in a rally in support of human rights. The march was held on Saturday in the Kyrgyz capital, where hundreds of people filled the streets to protest peacefully against President Almazbek Atambayev’s crack down on independent media.
Among those participating were numerous journalists, rights activists and regular members of the public as well as MPs from the opposition Ata-Meken party, whose leader Omurbek Tekebayev is in jail on alleged corruption charges.
Although the rally was peaceful, police stopped the protesters and arrested some people, including activists Mavlyan Askarbekov, Aibek Myrza and Azamat Attokurov.
“If somebody is counting on us getting tired and afraid, and that we will let them get away with this lawlessness, then they are wrong. History and truth are on our side,” said rally organiser and activist Edil Baisalov.
“We have been through times that were one hundred times darker and one hundred times worse,” he said. “We have fought regimes that were one hundred times stronger and we have won, and we will win this time too”.
Adil Turdukulov, a freedom of speech advocate, said that the people detained during the march were sentenced to serve five days in jail. On Sunday, he wrote on his Facebook account that the detainees were complaining of appalling conditions in custody.
“There are 22 people in a space of 15 square metres,” he wrote. “There is one shared, outdoor bathroom for all of them. Many of the fellow prisoners are suffering from tuberculosis and are infested with lice. This is tantamount to torture.”
Meanwhile, President Atambayev slammed the media for trying to cause instability, calling his media detractors “libellers” and “moral degenerates”.
“Lately in Kyrgyzstan a bunch of allegedly independent journalists, media and politicians are in fact demanding impunity to slander and throw mud at people they don’t like — above all, the popularly elected president of Kyrgyzstan,” Atambayev said.
The Kyrgyz leader went on to talk about a “campaign of lies,” which has intensified since last summer.
“I would like to recall that the main responsibility and the right of journalists and the media is bringing to the people honest and truthful information, objective facts, not to create fake news, lies, and slander,” he said.
However, this line of argument is hardly convincing since Atambayev himself injected a degree of chaos into Kyrgyz politics when he had Tekebayev arrested and pushed for constitutional change.