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Clashes interrupt Kyrgyz trial over April killings
BISHKE K |
BISHKE K (Reuters) - Relatives of protesters killed in an April revolt clashed with police in a Kyrgyz court on Wednesday, calling for the execution of those accused of killing scores in the uprising that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Dozens of relatives of the dead broke through police lines at the trial held in a Bishkek sports palace, trying to reach the 22 accused, who include Bakiyev's former defence minister, before the defendants were evacuated.
"They must be shot!" the attackers cried, some grabbing microphone stands and wielding them to fight police a few hours after the start of the first trial stemming from the killings.
"Death for death! We will burn down your homes!" some shouted as the trial began. "You are damned ... We will pluck your eyes," yelled others.
The April uprising in the capital Bishkek triggered a wave of violence in the ethnically divided Central Asian nation, which hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases.
Officials say 87 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded on April 7 when Bakiyev ordered his special forces to shoot into angry crowds storming government headquarters.
The south of the Muslim state bordering China saw seizures of administrative buildings in May and the worst ethnic riots in its modern history in June when at least 400 people were killed.
The accused are charged with aiding or committing premeditated murders and face from 10 years in jail to life imprisonment.
Two of the accused -- Bakiyev's Defence Minister Baktybek Kalyev and deputy chief of Bakiyev's security guard Nurlan Temirbekov -- were placed in a metal cage on a podium.
Six people on the run, including Bakiyev who is sheltering in Belarus, his brother, his son, his prime minister and security police chief, are being tried in absentia.
Bakiyev says he did not order the shootings of protesters and that his troops retaliated immediately after a sniper shot at him in his office. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has declined to extradite Bakiyev.
When defence lawyers took the floor at the trial, the audience whistled and booed. About 30 relatives of the dead tried to manhandle the lawyers and police intervened.
Last month, Kyrgyzstan elected a new legislature, a crucial step in creating the first parliamentary republic in post-Soviet Central Asia run with an iron fist by presidential strongmen.
But none of the five parties elected to the new parliament has a majority, and interim leader Roza Otunbayeva will be forced to dissolve the legislature if its factions fail three times to form a governing coalition and elect a prime minister.
The emotional trial underscores tensions running high in the impoverished nation which lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan and shares with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the Ferghana valley where radical Islam is on the rise.
(Editing by Charles Dick)
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