BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – About 200 people, some throwing stones, broke into Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court on Wednesday and evicted activists who had occupied the building for more than a month in a protest on behalf of five losing parliamentary candidates.
Police reported scuffles between the two groups, and a woman who was ejected from the building said two of her fellow activists received head injuries. The court building had broken windows and few bottles of flammable liquid littering its grounds.
Witnesses said the crowd moved to evict the activists because they had blocked court proceedings since their protest began April 22.
But a police official at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of compromising his position, said the group that stormed the building were supporters of candidates whose seats were being challenged by the activists inside.
It was the most serious outbreak of unrest in Kyrgyzstan (search) since the March uprising that ousted longtime President Askar Akayev (search), who was replaced by acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev (search).
A woman who identified herself only by her first name, Nurjamal, of the nearby village of Kara-Balta, said the activists were blocking the work of the court, and that prisoners who had earlier been granted amnesty were waiting to be freed, but that the judges had not been able to deal with their cases.
"We are not for any lawmakers but for the court. What will happen if people keep occupying government buildings?" Nurjamal said.
Once inside the building, the crowd started throwing out blankets and other items the occupiers had used. An Associated Press reporter saw about 200 people outside the building after the storming. They left shortly afterward.
Supporters of the defeated parliamentary candidates had vowed to occupy the building until the Supreme Court judges resigned, but the parliament has not dealt with the demand.
"This was all organized by the serving lawmakers. The authorities are unwilling to deal with the resignation of the Supreme Court, and this was a concern for the lawmakers," said Edil Baisalov, head of the Coalition of Civic Groups for Democracy and Civil Society.