Trials began Wednesday in Kyrgyzstan for former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his administration officials who have been charged with mass murder. The charges stem from an April 7 incident [JURIST report] in which police fired on a crowd of anti-government demonstrators, killing more than 85 people. The crowd eventually overwhelmed security forces, ultimately overtaking the Kyrgyz government and forcing Bakiyev into exile. Families of the victims held an angry demonstration [Reuters report] during the trial in the capital city of Bishkek, calling for the accused men to be punished. Human rights activists in the country have argued that the accused men will not receive a fair trial [BBC report] because of prevalent bias. Bakiyev, who now lives in Belarus and will be tried in absentia, maintains that police only shot at the protesters after the crowd began firing on Kyrgyz government headquarters. Kyrgyzstan's interim government, led by Roza Otunbayeva [Telegraph profile], charged [JURIST report] Bakiyev with murder in April. Otunbayeva has pledged [JURIST report] to bring Bakiyev and other members of the former government to justice.
The country's new parliament, elected last month amid ongoing unrest, held its first assembly last week [VOA report] and discussed the possibility of a coalition government. Last month's parliamentary elections were the first since a new constitution took effect in July after being approved by voters [JURIST reports] in a nationwide referendum. In September, a court in Kyrgyzstan issued the first convictions [JURIST report] in connection with the June 2010 ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive] against Uzbeks in primarily the southern cities of Osh and Jalal'abad. The conflict is believed to have been linked to Bakiyev's overthrow. In August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, JURIST report] that Kyrgyzstan armed forces played a role in instigating and at times taking part in the attacks against ethnic Uzbeks. The group called on the international community to ensure the effective and speedy deployment of an international police force and to support efforts for an international investigation.