Four Kyrgyz officers jailed for spying for Russia

Four Kyrgyz security officers accused of spying for Russia were given long jail sentences by a court in the Central Asian state on Monday.

Four Kyrgyz officers jailed for spying for Russia
A small country to the west of China, Kyrgyzstan is home to a Russian and a U.S. military airbase -- an arrangement that has come to symbolise rivalry between the West and Moscow in their battle for control over the strategically important region.

A court convicted four Kyrgyz men, two of them working for the SNB security service, to jail sentences ranging from four to 14 years for spying for Russia and other security violations, said Vyacheslav Luzhansky, one of their lawyers.

It was not clear what the men were accused of having done.

Luzhansky, who attended Monday's session, told Reuters they denied any wrongdoing and planned to appeal against the ruling.

The other two are retired security officers, he said. Russian defence authorities could not be reached for comment.

The Russian airbase was set up just two years after Washington established its military base in Kyrgyzstan in 2001 to support operations in nearby Afghanistan.

Both airbases are at the centre of much heated debate in the impoverished ex-Soviet nation where some people are unhappy with the presence of Russian and U.S. troops.

Rights activists have long called on the government to evict foreign troops, but the authorities have defended their presence as key to Kyrgyzstan's balanced approach to diplomacy.

In the most recent case that stirred controversy, Kyrgyz police shot a Russian officer on April 20 near the Russian airbase for starting a fight with the police, prompting Moscow to call for an urgent joint probe into the matter.

Last Mod: 29 Nisan 2008, 09:24
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