A series of demonstrations against government corruption in Kırğızstan over the last week turned violent today as crowds threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber weapons.  About 30 people received treatment for injuries, most minor but some severe, and it is claimed that some of these injuries were sustained at the hands of the police.
Demonstrators protesting against Governor Sopu Bayal-ulı Bek came out in force amid a new round of allegations of corruption in the Provincial government.  Provincial government documents leaked by a sacked mid-level official allege that provincial watchdogs appointed by the governor have been accepting bribes to falsify evidence of departmental corruption.  The latest leak suggests that Governor Sopu Bek knew about this.
It was perhaps the involvement of a governor who has such a reputation for intolerance of corruption that triggered the anger and violence.  Small-scale petty corruption has long been endemic in Turkestan, especially in government circles, and most people are normally fairly inured to it as "just the way things are".  These allegations raise the probablility that more is going wrong than just small-scale and petty corruption.
"If we can't trust our anticorruption watchdogs, who can we trust?" said a young woman in the crowd who refused to be identified.  "We thought Sopu Bek was like a hound on the scent of those who take bribes and peddle influence, but it seems the only scent he was on was the stench of money."
The demonstrations had been fairly peaceful up until now.  It is not known what sparked the outbreak of violence in this case.  Some people in the crowd claim that it was the police who fired first, while the police maintain that they merely responded firmly to deal with a handful of troublemakers determined to cause an incident.
"Most people in the demonstrations were angry, but not violent," said Bişkek police chief Musa Balğaar-ulı Maıor.  "There were a few criminal elements using the demonstration as a cover for illegal activity, and we dealt with those firmly for the sake of everyone in the crowd.  Unfortunately, this natural police response seemed to trigger further disturbances of a otherwise orderly demonstration, and certain troublemakers seized on these to create an incident."  Musa Maıor went on to say that any injuries that were caused by police officers were "extremely regrettable" and to promise that no action would be taken against those who were just demonstrating peacefully.
 


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