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US rights group slams attack on Kyrgyz activist

Written by: Staff
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ALMATY, Apr 14 (Reuters) US-based Human Rights Watch today called on Kyrgyzstan 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 parliament.

''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 organised 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.

REUTERS KD SP1151

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