Supporters of losing candidates in last month's parliamentary elections in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan have occupied the country's Supreme Court, demanding the resignation of all its judges, protesters said Wednesday.
About 200 people are occupying the court buildings, with about 30 staying in the building around the clock, said Omurjan Amanov, one of the protesters. Hand-painted banners were draped on the building, including one saying: "People want justice."
He said no court staffers have been allowed to work since Friday and that police had sealed off all the rooms in the court to prevent theft of official documents.
Supreme Court chairman Kurmanbek Osmonov offered his resignation Monday, and it is expected to be accepted by Parliament on Thursday.
He has been under pressure to step down over controversial court decisions that have contributed to public anger over a rigged parliamentary vote in February and March, which sparked an uprising against President Askar Akayev on March 24.
The new Kyrgyz leadership has said that it found personal records proving Akayev was personally involved in vote-buying and electoral fraud in favor of loyal candidates.
Lawyer Valentina Boyarova and three of her clients came to the court Wednesday for a scheduled hearing on a land dispute, but dozens of protesters prevented the group from entering.
"We're also part of the people," Boyarova said after losing an argument with the protesters. "I just want to make sure our hearing isn't canceled because of our absence."
Only four National Guards troops inside the building and a few police officers outside were keeping watch over the building, where a dozen women protesters were sipping tea.
"We demand that all the judges leave their jobs and that our parliamentary candidate's case be reconsidered fairly," said Amanov, a farmer who has been picketing the court since April 18. He said his candidate had lost to a son-in-law of former President Askar Akayev's chief of staff, and that his candidate had been robbed of victory because of "corrupt judges."
The Kremlin has taken two strong steps in a war of nerves that has caused quite a stir in the NATO-Ukraine alliance