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Kyrgyzstan Opposition Leader Flees

September 4, 2002

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) _ A prominent opposition figure in troubled Kyrgyzstan said Wednesday that security agents ordered his first cousin to participate in an operation to arrest him, from which he escaped.

Tursunbek Akunov called his arrest on Tuesday in the village of Kerben ``a direct violation of human rights.″

According to the account he gave at a news conference in Bishkek, the capital, his cousin Aziz Musabekov came to his house on Tuesday and called him to come to the gate. Akunov was seized by about 10 agents of the National Security Service.

``Musabekov came on the order of the Interior Ministry,″ Akunov said.

He said he was put inside a car and driven away by the agents, but escaped by fleeing into the brush when the car stopped en route to Bishkek.

Akunov is one of the leaders of a movement seeking the dismissal of President Askar Akayev.

Kyrgyzstan, which is hosting anti-terrorist troops for operations in nearby Afghanistan, has been wracked by political instability this year. At least five people died in March when police opened fire on a demonstration in the country’s south _ the first political violence since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

A protest march from southern Kyrgyzstan to Bishkek is expected to begin in a few days and culminate in a mass demonstration in the capital in mid-September.

Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency reported that hundreds of people were coming from outlying regions to the town of Tash-Kumyr, the march’s starting point.

Also Wednesday, police arrested five participants in an unauthorized protest in the city of Dzhalal-Abad. Two of those arrested had attacked a policeman, said Interior Ministry spokesman Dzholdoshbek Buzurmankulov.

Akayev’s entire Cabinet resigned in May in a bid to quell the public’s anger. But opposition leaders continue to call for Akayev to step down, and he has since appointed a council that is looking at possible changes to the country’s political system.

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