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Protesters Take Over Kyrgyz Government HQ

The Kyrgyz authorities on Saturday blamed the country's former leader for instigating protesters' brief takeover of the government's headquarters, but the ex-president denied the accusations.

About 2,000 supporters of presidential hopeful Urmat Baryktabasov stormed the headquarters building on Friday. Club-wielding troops from the Interior Ministry forced them out about an hour later, using tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said Saturday that Baryktabasov's political party, Homeland Kyrgyzstan, was financially supported by former President Askar Akayev's family.

"This is a counterrevolution which is being financed by supporters of the old regime," Usenov told a news conference. He said that law enforcement agencies have launched criminal investigations of a coup attempt and hooliganism.

Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov also said Saturday that he had information that Baryktabasov was linked to Akayev and his family. The prosecutor said Akayev's son, Aidar, had been in Bishkek and left with Baryktabasov after the riots.

Speaking to Russia's Channel One television Saturday, Akayev rejected the allegations of involvement in the unrest, and said his son and other family members were in Russia when the riots took place.

"Neither I, nor my son or my son-in-law had any relation whatsoever to the events in Bishkek," Akayev said.

Beknazarov said his deputy would travel to Moscow on Tuesday to try to meet with Akayev, his wife and their son, as well as Akayev's son-in-law and former Kyrgyz prime minister, Nikolai Tanayev.

Baryktabasov's supporters on Friday were protesting election officials' refusal to register Baryktabasov to run in the July 10 presidential vote, on the grounds that he was a citizen of Kazakhstan.

The election was called after a March 24 uprising in the impoverished nation forced Akayev to flee to Russia.

Beknazarov said he would ask parliament within days to strip Akayev's son of his immunity as a lawmaker. Aidar Akayev was elected to parliament in February elections that were marred by fraud and triggered the uprising that ousted the unpopular government.

A Homeland Kyrgyzstan spokeswoman, Bermet Turduniyazova, said that neither Baryktabasov nor the party had been involved in Friday's takeover of the government building.

Baryktabasov could face a 10-year prison term if found guilty of organizing the protest, Beknazarov said.

Baryktabasov is believed to have left for Kazakhstan following Friday's unrest.

Interim President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who is expected to easily win next month's election, has threatened to use force against future attacks on the government headquarters.

(The Moscow Times 20.vi.05)

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