Human Rights Watch says best regional researcher barred from Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK Kyrgyzstan has barred the head of Human Rights Watch’s office in Bishkek from getting into the country, HRW said on Friday, following the group called for the release of a Kyrgyz dissident jailed for life and criticized what it saw as repressive legislation.

The mainly Muslim, Central Asian republic of six million men and women voted in October to hold a pro-Russian celebration coalition in energy, which is most likely to draw Kyrgyzstan additional back into the orbit of its former Soviet master.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Mihra Rittmann, its Central Asia researcher and Bishkek office director, had been declared “persona non grata” by Kyrgyz authorities and refused entry on Wednesday. HRW described the step as “unprecedented, unexpected, and a deeply disturbing sign”.

A Kyrgyz foreign ministry spokesman said Rittman, a U.S. citizen, had violated immigration laws, but gave no particulars.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev accused the United States in July of looking for to “produce chaos” in his nation by granting an award to dissident Azimjon Askarov, jailed for life on charges of inciting ethnic hatred. Kyrgyzstan terminated a cooperation accord with Washington in response.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought a rapprochement with ex-Soviet Central Asian leaders when he toured the area in October and November, but accomplished no apparent progress.

Ahead of Kerry’s go to. HRW urged him to press Bishkek to release Askarov and reject draft bills that describe foreign-funded organizations as “foreign agents” and ban “homosexual propaganda”. HRW has also criticized the Kyrgyz government for not doing adequate to address issues such as domestic violence.

The bills in query stay at draft stage.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko Writing by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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