The president of the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, has released a dissident who had been convicted of trying to kill him. Topchubek Turgunaliyev was arrested in May of 1999 and charged with trying to assassinate Kyrgyz President Akayev.

Last year, the 60-year-old was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to six years. During a news conference on Monday, the state secretary, Osmunkon Ibraimov, announced that President Akayev had decided to release Turgunaliyev, as part of an amnesty marking the country's 10 years of independence. He cited his good behavior while in prison and appeals from a number of political parties.

Ever since his arrest two years ago, Turgunaliyev has firmly denied the charge against him, which his allies say was politically motivated.

Turgunaliyev is the founder of the Democratic Movement of Kyrgyzstan, a political opposition group, as well as the former head of Bishkek University in the country's capital.

Many human rights organizations had criticized his arrest, saying that the Kyrgyz president was simply trying to crack down on political opposition in the mountainous Central Asian republic.

The human rights organization Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and called for his release.

In the first years of its independence, Kyrgyzystan had been considered an oasis of democracy in a region often criticized for being too authoritarian. But in recent years the country has come under criticism. Presidential elections in October of 2000 were criticized by monitoring organizations that said President Akayev was trying to suppress any opposition.

On August 31, Kyrgyzstan, which was once part of the former Soviet Union, will mark 10 years of independence.