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Weekly news wrap

The mountainous state of Kyrgyzstan this week expressed concern over another border incident with its powerful neighbour Uzbekistan. On Wednesday in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov summoned Uzbek Ambassador Alisher Salahitdinov, following a landmine explosion which killed one man in the south of the country.

The meeting follows an earlier one between the two last week after two Uzbek border guards reportedly crossed into Kyrgyzstan and harassed residents, firing a warning shot from a rifle before retreating home, Reuters said.

According to Aitmatov, Uzbekistan’s laying of mines along the border has raised tension between the two states, while mining border areas without special markings violates international law. Bishkek has called on Tashkent to provide maps showing where and in what quantity such mines were laid, as well as to take concrete steps to clear areas along the border of mines, the report said.

The latest explosion in the southern Batken region of the country, brings to 12 the number of Uzbek mine explosions in and around disputed territory between the two countries since 1999, the Associated Press (AP) added, noting the mines, allegedly laid by Tashkent to discourage Islamic militants from entering the country, continued to be a major source of contention in the region.

In Kazakhstan on Wednesday, a number of local NGOs voiced their opposition to plans to build a nuclear power plant in the central Karaganda region of the country, noting that such a decision should only be reached through a national referendum.

In a joint statement issued by the group in the commercial capital, Almaty, Russia and Kazakhstan had reached an agreement on the start of the facility’s construction to be located at Lake Balkhash - despite the fact that current electricity resources were already sufficient.

"Already existing power plants, with maximum production and a sensible conservation policy, are capable of meeting the country’s electricity needs in the near future," the statement, as reported by by BBC Monitoring, read. The nuclear issue is sensitive in this Central asian republic. Kazakhstan suffers from massive health and enironmental problems - the legacy of decades of Soviet nuclear weapons testing.

In Tajikistan, nine members of the country’s armed Islamist opposition were sentenced to death, the supreme court’s military tribunal announced on Tuesday. The court also handed down sentences ranging from 18 months to 25 years in prison to 72 other accused Islamists, releasing one man for health reasons, the French AFP news agency reported on Tuesday.

Charged with hostage-taking, terrorism, murder and belonging to illegal armed groups, the 82 men had been accused of carrying out attacks despite the signing of a UN-brokered peace deal in 1997, putting to an end a five-year-old civil war between the government and an armed Islamist opposition.

Meanwhile in Turkmenistan, the government announced on Thursday that the state would be confiscating property belonging to so-called "traitors of the motherland" and turning it over to Turkmen families.

The order, issued by Turkmen President Saparmyrat Niyazov and signed by Ashgabat Mayor Amangeldi Redzhepov, was designed to strip alleged traitors of apartments, homes and cottages constructed "to the detriment of the motherland, the people and the state", AP reported.

The move follows a spate of new measures undertaken in the reclusive energy-rich state to quash opposition following an alleged assassination attempt on the president in November.

According to a report by the Voice of America on Friday, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said it was alarmed by new laws against high treason, which it described as reminiscent of the Stalinist era of the 1930s.

Aaron Rhodes, head of the group, is worried that new legislation will punish people simply for being guilty of what it calls "thought crimes". He described the situation as frightening. Laws now defining high treason were so vague that it was easy to imprison any critic of the totalitarian regime, he added. The group has described Turkmenistan's human rights record as "catastrophic".


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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