On October 24, hundreds rallied in Bishkek demanding the detained activists and politicians be released and urging the government to revise the border demarcation deal.
BISHKEK – A court in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, has sent to pretrial detention for two months 20 politicians and activists accused of planning riots over the government’s border demarcation deal with neighboring Uzbekistan.
The Birinchi Mai district court ruled on October 25 that the group must stay in pretrial detention until at least December 20.
The Interior Ministry's spokesman, Erkebek Ashirkhojaev, said on October 25 that 21 persons were detained over the weekend after the homes of 22 persons were searched by police.
Those detained include the former Kyrgyz ambassador to Malaysia, Azimbek Beknazarov; former lawmaker Asia Sasykbaeva; well-known politicians Kanat Isaev, Jenis Moldokmatov, and Ravshan Jeenbekov; human rights defender Rita Karasartova; and other noted public figures and activists.
"They were all charged with planning mass disorder; the Birinchi Mai district court sent 20 of them to pretrial detention and one was placed under house arrest due to health issues," Ashirkhojaev said.
The group was detained on October 23 over their opposition to the draft agreement Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are expected to sign to resolve all land disputes between the two countries.
According to the deal, Kyrgyzstan will hand over the territory of the Kempir-Abad water reservoir covering 4,485 hectares to Uzbekistan in exchange for over 19,000 hectares elsewhere.
On October 24, hundreds rallied in Bishkek demanding the detained activists and politicians be released and urging the government to revise the border demarcation deal. Similar protests were held in the country’s second-largest city, Osh.
In a statement on October 25, Human Rights Watch urged the government of the Central Asian nation to immediately release the politicians and activists and publish all of the details of the deal on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border demarcation.
The Kempir-Abad reservoir, which was built in 1983, is located in the fertile Ferghana Valley and is a vital regional water source. Uzbekistan, whose population of 35 million is five times larger than that of Kyrgyzstan, uses the majority of the water.
The two Central Asian countries share a border of more than 1,300 kilometers.
Many Kyrgyz civil activists, opposition politicians, and residents living close to the dam are against the deal. They say Uzbekistan could continue using the dam's water, but the reservoir's land should remain within Kyrgyzstan's border.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and his allies claim the deal benefits Kyrgyzstan and that Kyrgyz farmers will still have access to the water.