World Bulletin/News Desk
A court in Kyrgyzstan on Friday charged three opposition nationalist members of parliament with attempting to stage a coup after they led a crowd which tried to storm government headquarters in a protest over a Canadian-owned gold mine.
The charges followed a protest on Wednesday during which demonstrators demanded that the state should nationalise the Kumtor gold mine, Kyrgyzstan's flagship venture with Canada's Centerra Gold Inc. The mine accounted for 12 percent of Kyrgyz GDP and over a half of all its exports in 2011.
Calls to nationalise Kumtor, the largest gold mine operated in Central Asia by a Western-based concern, risk scaring off potential investors needed to revive a shrinking economy.
The clashes between police and supporters of the opposition Ata Zhurt party in the former Soviet republic were the most violent in Bishkek, the capital, since the April 2010 revolt that ousted then-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
The three parliamentarians held responsible - Kamchibek Tashiyev, Sadyr Zhaparov and Talant Mamytov - were detained by security police on Thursday. If found guilty, their lawyers said they could face between 12 and 20 years in jail.
"The court ordered that all three be put into custody for two months," Ikramidin Aitkulov, Tashiyev's lawyer, told Reuters outside the district court in the centre of the Kyrgyz capital. "Then a trial will be held."
He said he believed the charges against his client were politically motivated. "Everything is being done to eliminate a political rival," he said. "Tashiyev's only task at that rally was to draw public attention to the problem of Kumtor."
Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, who was appointed last month, visited the Kumtor gold mine on Monday and promised the venture would not be nationalised.
The assault on Kyrgyzstan's "White House", which houses the government and the parliament, rekindled north-south tension in the mainly Muslim Central Asian nation of 5.5 million, which borders China and hosts Russian and U.S. military air bases.
Ata Zhurt and its allies enjoy strong support in the poorer, ethnically mixed south where the grip of the central government remains tenuous.
On Friday, about 1,000 Ata Zhurt supporters protested for a second day in the main square of the southern city of Jalalabad, demanding the release of the three parliamentarians.
Dozens of protesters later set up traditional Kyrgyz "yurt" felt tents near the adjacent regional administration building to hold a round-the-clock protest.
In the evening, a group of women and male youths blocked the main motorway linking the country's north and south.
There were no reports of violence.
Since 2005, two presidents of Kyrgyzstan have been toppled after attacks on the same government building in Bishkek. The city of about one million residents was quiet on Friday evening.
Only about 50 Ata Zhurt supporters chanted "Freedom!" near the court. The small group was dwarfed by hundreds of policemen who cordoned off approaches to the building. More policemen with shields and truncheons took up positions in nearby side streets.
Tashiyev's lawyer Aitkulov called on Ata Zhurt supporters to abstain from violent actions.
Wednesday's rally began as a peaceful protest in favour of nationalising Kumtor. Under a Bakiyev-era contract drawn up in 2009 the Kyrgyz state is a 33 percent shareholder in Centerra.
Days after a suicide bomber killed 57 people at a Kabul voter registration centre, highlighting the security challenges around October's parliamentary polls, Stoltenberg said NATO forces could play a "limited" security role.
The US social media giant's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer appeared before a British parliamentary committee probing the role of fake news in recent votes, and how data gathered from the network was used to target potential voters.
If confirmed as US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo will reportedly head to Israel for first official trip overseas
Suspects were indicted for sponsoring the terror groups PKK, Fetullah Terrorist Organization, and leftist DHKP/C
Tim Cook had private meeting with U.S. president to discuss White House trade policies
Foreign ministers to discuss cooperation within framework of Astana mechanism for Syria on April 28
Company bows to protests after deleting video but applies age restriction
'More violence will not bring peace and security to Afghanistan', says State Department
This is the second Palestinian journalist to have died by Israeli gunfire
Prime Minister Sharma Oli accepts that rebuilding after 2015 earthquake has remained sluggish
At least 41 Gazans were killed in anti-occupation rallies since last month
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons
'Texas honors all the men and women who protect and serve our communities, and justice will be served,' Texas governor says
Police said the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was not known to them before Monday's carnage in Canada's most populous city, which also left 15 people injured.
At least 41 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli gunfire on Gaza border since March 30
Talks are expected to tackle the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawal from war-torn Syria