April 14, 2006

Rights group slams attack on Kyrgyz activist

ALMATY (Reuters) - U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on
Kyrgyzstan on Friday to hold a thorough inquiry into the attack
on a prominent rights activist, linking the assault to his
campaign against crime in the Central Asian state.

Edil Baisalov, 28, received head injuries during an attack
by an unknown attacker on Wednesday. Baisalov had campaigned
against a controversial businessman seeking a seat in

"This is a shocking attempt on the life of a respected
human rights defender and champion of the rule of law," said
Holly Cartner, director of the Europe and Central Asia division
at Human Rights Watch.

"The investigation by Kyrgyz authorities ... must be
thorough, independent and capable of leading to prosecution.
The government of Kyrgyzstan must bring the perpetrator to
justice and show that such violence will not be tolerated,"
Cartner said in a statement on Web site hrw.org.

Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished mountainous country bordering
China, has been plagued by instability, rising crime and
high-profile assassinations since violent protests ousted
veteran leader Askar Akayev last year.

Baisalov, who leads the Coalition for Democracy and Civil
Society, is in hospital with a skull fracture and concussion.

"Baisalov had expressed his concern to Human Rights Watch
in past months that the government's failure to take action to
stop organized crime and hold members of crime syndicates
accountable sent a signal that members of criminal groups could
act with impunity," the rights group said.

The businessman, Ryspek Akmatbayev, has risen to prominence
since his brother, parliamentarian Tynychbek Akmatbayev, was
shot during prison riots last year.

Ryspek Akmatbayev was charged with murdering a policeman
but was acquitted this year. He was sentenced to jail terms
twice in the 1990s for assault, theft and other crimes.

He won a by-election on April 9 for his brother's seat, but
officials threatened to disqualify his victory due to an appeal
against the murder acquittal. Akmatbayev has not spoken
publicly since the election.

Akmatbayev's lawyer has denied his client might be linked
to the attack.