A Kazakh opposition leader who said he intends to run against the ex-Soviet republic's veteran autocratic leader narrowly escaped being beaten by several dozen men while meeting activists in a southern town, his opposition alliance said Tuesday.
Zharmakhan Tuyakbai and other opposition leaders escaped by jumping from a second-floor balcony of a cafe in Shymknet on Monday after a group of young men broke into the building and chased them, verbally abusing and throwing chairs, plates and empty bottles at them, hi alliance, called For a Fair Kazakhstan, said in a statement.
It was the second attack on Tuyakbai in the past month.
The alliance said one opposition activist was beaten and hospitalized with a fractured rib and injuries of internal organs.
"It was a thoroughly planned action carried out by the authorities," said an alliance leader, Altynbek Sarsenbayev.
On April 9, Tuyakbai was nearly hit by a brick thrown at him during a meeting in eastern Kazakhstan. The brick hit the wall behind Tuyakbai and shattered, injuring his spokesman and a cameraman.
Kazakh authorities have been jittery since the overthrow of the Soviet-era leader in neighboring Kyrgyzstan in March, which followed popular uprisings in two other former Soviet countries, Georgia and Ukraine.
Tuyakbai, a former chief prosecutor, resigned from the post of parliament speaker in October to protest flawed elections. The opposition united around him, naming him their candidate for president against President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the oil-rich nation for 16 years.
Nazarbayev, whose term expires in January 2006, has said he will run for another seven-year term. The presidential vote is expected to be held in December.
Monday's attack was preceded by a demonstration in front of the cafe where the opposition was planning to hold a meeting. The several dozen demonstrators held signs saying: "We are for Nazarbayev," and "You (opposition) are the people's shame."
When the attackers entered the cafe, after breaking down doors and smashing windows, they shouted: "Where is your single (presidential) candidate?" and "We will kill anybody for Nazarbayev!" according to the alliance leaders.
Several dozen police officers at the scene did not interfere, according to footage of the attack shown by the opposition Tuesday. Police refused to comment.
BAGILA BUKHARBAYEVA, Associated Press Writer
On the photo: Zharmakhan Tuyakbai