- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN (AP) - Kyrgyzstan police detained several prominent activists Wednesday as they held a ceremony to mark the seventh anniversary of shootings that left six protesters dead, an opposition party said.

People who gathered in front of a government office for a candlelit vigil were surrounded by around 30 police officers, Ata-Meken opposition party spokesman Zhoomart Saparbayev said.

Opposition leaders and activists are coming under growing pressure from authorities in the impoverished Central Asian country as President Kurmanbek Bakiyev seeks to consolidate power ahead of a possible early presidential election this year.

Saparbayev said police were holding at least four people, including Citizens Against Corruption rights group chairwoman Tolekan Ismailova and leading opposition politician Topchubek Turgunaliyev.

The Interior Ministry press office could not immediately be reached for comment.

In March 2002, troops and police fired on peaceful demonstrators in the southern Kyrgyz district of Aksy protesting a government decision to give an area of disputed land to neighboring China. Dozens of people were injured.

The United People’s Movement opposition umbrella group plans to hold nationwide protests March 27 to demand Bakiyev’s resignation over his handling of the economy and a perceived increase in political repression.

Bakiyev was elected after mass protests led to the overthrow of longtime President Askar Akayev in March 2005. Kyrgyzstan has since suffered deteriorating public security, budget deficits and political instability.

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