Page last updated at 05:27 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Kyrgyzstan activists on hunger strike for freedoms

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC Central Asia correspondent, Bishkek

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev
President Bakiyev faces deepening social discontent in the poor nation

Opposition activists in Kyrgyzstan have been holding a hunger strike protest for two weeks.

They are calling for an end to political repression in the country following the jailing of an opposition leader.

The EU has expressed concern over continuing attacks on journalists and opposition politicians.

It has also renewed its call for an investigation into the murder of a Kyrgyz journalist in December.

A group of opposition supporters have been conducting what they are calling a rotating hunger strike in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, and also in the Osh region in the south of the country.

'Not free'

They are calling for an end to political repression in the country.

Their action began 14 days ago after a former defence minister turned opposition leader Ismail Isakov was sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption.

Two other opposition politicians are also facing trials.

The European Union recently expressed deep concern over increasing attacks and acts of intimidation towards opposition figures and independent journalists in Kyrgyzstan.

The EU has highlighted the case of the Kyrgyz journalist Gennady Pavluk, murdered in neighbouring Kazakhstan in December.

He was thrown from the sixth floor of an apartment block with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr Pavluk had been in the process of setting up an opposition newspaper.

The government has denied involvement in the attacks.

Once described as an island of democracy in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was recently downgraded by the Washington-based rights watchdog Freedom House to "not free".

Critics point to an increasing centralisation of power in the hands of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and his family.

Mr Bakiyev has recently appointed his son to head an important government agency which will oversee all foreign grants and credits.

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