Uzbek protesters seek rebel's release

Up to 200 protesters have demonstrated in Uzbekistan's border town of Korasuv.

    Soldiers prevented protesters from crossing the border

    The protesters, mostly women, early on Saturday carried banners demanding freedom for rebel Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, who was detained by the authorities.

     

    Two hundred soldiers and riot police prevented the protesters from reaching a bridge leading into Kyrgyzstan across the Sharikh Khansai river.

     

    The demonstrators were blocked about 200m from the bridge.

     

    Earlier on Saturday, security forces were reinforced after a protest demonstration by at least 1000 people demanding the release of Rakhimov and other detainees.

     

    On Saturday morning, Uzbek forces were still allowing residents of the Uzbek part of Korasuv to cross into the Kyrgyz part to go on errands at the market.

     

    Rumours of arrest

     

    Uzbek residents, who had crossed into Kyrgyzstan, reported rumours of arrests back in Uzbekistan.

     

    "There are many rumours of arrests," said an Uzbek peasant on condition of anonymity.

     

    "People are complaining they are fed up. We want more money and more work, and the authorities send us more soldiers and more police," he said.

     

    About 1000 protesters had gathered on Friday in Korasuv to demand the release of detainees held by the authorities since they earlier reclaimed control of the town from protesters.

     

    Demands

     

    In addition to Rakhimov, demonstrators demanded the release of a prominent wrestler, Dilmorod Mamajanov, said a witness, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

     

    "We want more money and more work, and the authorities send us more soldiers and more police"

    Uzbek peasant

    The two were said to have been arrested during the security operation in Korasuv, which followed unrest in the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border area after the weekend's violence in the city of Andijan.

     

    Most of the crowd had dispersed later on Friday after a senior local official had agreed to take up the matter with province level authorities in Andijan, the witness said.

     

    The protest came after Korasuv authorities released 16 other prisoners on Wednesday and Thursday.

     

    Uzbek President Islam Karimov has denied reports that Uzbek authorities largely lost control of Korasuv for several days in the wake of the violence in Andijan that is feared to have left many hundreds dead.

     

    Red Cross

     

    Meanwhile, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has asked the Uzbek government for access to those wounded and arrested in the unrest.

     

    The ICRC said in a statement that many familes did not know what had happened to their relatives and this was cause for humanitarian concern

     

    "Our delegates' visits to the various towns and villages in the Ferghana Valley in recent days has shown that the latest violence has not, for the moment, created any need for emergency material assistance," said Reto Meister, ICRC delegate-general for Asia and the Pacific.

     

    "What really matters now is that our delegates be given access to those arrested, to the wounded, who are still being treated in the hospitals, and to families still trying to ascertain what has happened to missing relatives."

    SOURCE: AFP


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