Opposition leaders said the arrest of Dzhekshenkulov, an outspoken critic of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the Kyrgyz president, was politically motivated and linked to other recent government attempts to silence dissent.

"Dzhekshenkulov was never involved in business at all and on that day was not even in Talas," the For Justice party said in a statement.

The party said that the former foreign minister had been harrassed by the government and this had led to his son seeking political asylum in the United States.

Opposition 'targeted'

Before Dzhekshenkulov's arrest, Alexander Knyazev, a professor at the Slavic University in Bishkek, told the AFP news agency that Bakiyev was moving against the opposition as he was planning to hold early elections.

"The evidence that elections will be held this year is contained in the political situation itself," he said.

"He's already succeeded in neutralising the opposition by opening [criminal] investigations into nearly every one of their leaders," Knyazev said.

In January, Omurbek Tekebayev, an opposition leader and former parliamentary speaker, was charged with possessing three loaded guns.

Analysts suggest that Bakiyev is seeking to consolidate power after he secured billions of dollars in aid and loans from Russia.

Last week, a prominent Russian human rights activist was barred from entering the country after his group published a report critical of the government.

Vitaly Ponamaryov, regional head of the Memorial group, was turned away at Manas airport and declared persona non grata.