Reuters International

BISHKEK (Reuters) - The government of Kyrgyzstan plans to downgrade the status of local office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the cabinet said on Friday, after the human rights watchdog invited Bishkek's outspoken opponent to a conference.

The move follows the cancellation of a cooperation treaty between Kyrgyzstan and the United States for similar reasons: Washington had given a human rights award to a man convicted and imprisoned in Kyrgyzstan.

Kadyrzhan Batyrov, a businessman and an ethnic Uzbek community leader, has lived in Sweden since 2011 and has been sentenced in absentia to a prison term at home on charges of being involved in the 2010 ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in which hundreds died.

Batyrov spoke at an annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw this month, and his presence there angered the Bishkek government.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry said it had sent a formal note to the OSCE, informing the organisation that it plans to downgrade the status and the mandate of the OSCE centre in Bishkek.

The spokeswoman said Kyrgyzstan had planned such a move before the Warsaw conference because it believes the OSCE office has completed its mission of aiding democracy-building in the former Soviet republic.

"At the same time, the recent incident related to the presence of Kadyrzhan Batyrov, wanted (in Kyrgyzstan) for criminal offences, at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw last week has prompted the Kyrgyz side to notify the OSCE about this sooner," she said.

Kyrgyzstan is more liberal than its autocratic Central Asian neighbours, but also much more volatile politically. Violent protests in 2005 and 2010 toppled two of its presidents and the latter was followed by clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks who are a significant ethnic minority in the country's south.

Last year, Kyrgyzstan cancelled a cooperation treaty with the United States in protest against the award of a U.S. State Department human rights prize to Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek journalist and activist who is serving a life sentence on charges of inciting ethnic hatred.

Kyrgyzstan was not the only nation in the region angered by the OSCE conference. Tajikistan's delegation walked out of the same meeting, protesting against the presence of the leaders of the outlawed Islamic Renaissance Party accused of staging a failed coup against President Imomali Rakhmon.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov)


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