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Kyrgyzstan charges two with hate crime for anti-Putin protest


AFP Bishkek
Kyrgyzstan has charged two people with inciting inter-ethnic hatred after they protested a visit to the Central Asian country by Russian President Vladimir Putin, their lawyer said Thursday.
Nurlan Karymshakov and Gulzana Imayeva, who are husband and wife, were arrested while staging a protest outside the Russian embassy in the capital Bishkek on Wednesday, the lawyer, Zamir Zhooshev, told AFP.
Activists said the pair held posters calling Putin a "killer" and an "occupier" and called for Russia to leave the military base it controls in Kyrgyzstan.
Putin arrived Thursday on a state visit to Kyrgyzstan, an impoverished ex-Soviet ally that looks to Russia for much-needed investment and security. Kyrgyz police confirmed the arrests but did not provide further details.
"They have been charged with inciting inter-ethnic hatred," lawyer Zhooshev said.
The offence "is a serious crime and can carry a prison sentence up to 10 years," he said, calling the charges "complete nonsense."

The Kyrgyz government has regularly stressed its loyalty to Moscow and Russia has operated a strategically important military base in Kyrgyzstan since 2003.
In 2012, Kyrgyzstan agreed to extend Moscow's lease of the Kant base by 15 years while Russia pledged to cancel nearly USD 500 million of debts.
The latest charges come as a Kyrgyz citizen is on trial for inciting inter-ethnic hatred over critical comments about Russia on social media.
International rights groups regularly accuse Kyrgyzstan and other countries in the predominantly authoritarian region of Central Asia of using inter-ethnic hatred laws too broadly.

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First Published: Mar 28 2019 | 6:20 PM IST

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