Criminal case initiated against MP Omurbek Babanov in Kyrgyzstan

Omurbek Babanov (file photo)

BISHKEK (TCA) — On November 4, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Kyrgyzstan initiated a criminal case against the leader of the Respublika – Ata Jurt parliamentary faction and former presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov.

Babanov is accused of public calls for a violent change of the constitutional order and the incitement of national, racial or religious hatred.

According to an investigation, on September 28, 2017, during the election campaign, Babanov held a meeting with residents of the Amir Timur (On-Adyr) micro district of Osh city in the south of the country, mainly of Uzbek nationality. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office report, in order to obtain the votes of the Uzbek population, Babanov spoke about the infringement of the rights of people of Uzbek nationality, the alleged national inequality in the country and pressure on persons of Uzbek nationality by state bodies, and then urged them to actively resist this situation.

The complex philological and political examination revealed that Babanov’s public statements contained appeals aimed at stirring up ethnic hatred, provoking people to disobey and overthrow the current authorities, the Prosecutor General’s Office said. The criminal case was submitted to the State National Security Committee for further investigation.

Babanov’s statement

Babanov called the criminal case initiated against him absolutely flimsy and politically motivated. “The authorities cannot understand that Babanov is not the source of all problems. From the fact that they will remove me from the political arena, life in the country will not improve, and problems will not be solved. You cannot blame me, demonize and slander me for all the misfortunes,” he said in a statement later on November 4.

“I still hope for the wisdom of the authorities and I think that everyone recognizes this as a mistake,” said Babanov.

He is currently in Russia, deputy head of Respublika – Ata Jurt parliamentary faction Ruslan Kazakbaev told Sputnik Kyrgyzstan. According to him, Babanov left for Russia for treatment.

Russian expert’s commentary

The criminal case against Babanov confirms the sad conclusion that “outgoing President Atambayev has never really become a national leader capable of uniting the people of Kyrgyzstan into a single community,” Russian political analyst Arkady Dubnov told Kaktus.media information agency.

Instead, all the last steps of the outgoing president were aimed at preserving his power, strengthening his loyal state bodies, and placing his entrusted people in responsible positions, Dubnov said.

The artificiality of the accusations brought against Babanov is evident, and behind them there is the desire of the president to make a scapegoat out of his recent colleague and ally, and to blame him in significant part for the failures of the country’s economic policy, the expert said. The current authorities want to frighten Babanov and force him not to return to Kyrgyzstan. Authorities also want to curb and frighten Babanov’s supporters in Talas, Dubnov concluded.

Talas rallies

Earlier, local media reported on the possible arrest of Babanov. If Babanov returns from abroad, he can be taken into custody, the Asia News reported on November 2.

The rallies in Babanov’s home region of Talas were organized by his supporters, said head of the presidential administration Almaz Usenov in an interview with the Azattyk radio. The words of President Atambayev about the Manas epic were correct and the head of state will not apologize, Usenov said.

Since October 16, residents of Talas, not pleased with the results of the presidential elections, have held rallies. The reason for the latest rallies was the resentment of Talas residents with the words of Atambayev, who allegedly called them descendants of the enemies of Manas — Abyke and Kobosh.

On October 28, Atambayev criticized the rally in Talas city. He said that he was greatly saddened by the fact that during the rally in support of Babanov, young people did not want to listen to the excerpt from the Manas epic, which the Talas governor wanted to read. Atambayev spoke about the value of the epic, which can rightly be in second place after the Koran. Atambayev complained that the young people were led by the provocations of the descendants of Kobosh and Abyke, if they ignored the epic.

Political scientist Ainura Arzimatova said that Babanov was behind the rally in Talas, adding that those actions could lead to a split in society.

“In the election debates [President-elect] Sooronbai Jeenbekov promised Babanov to start fighting corruption from him. Now, when the results of the election have been summed up, Babanov decided to protect himself by the Talas people ready to go to the rally, and the demand that the president apologize was just an excuse,” Arzimatova said.

People were concerned about the idea of reviewing the results of the presidential election. “Of course, the fact that they were angrily shouting towards the governor indicates at regionalism. They think that if Babanov got 82% of the votes in Talas, he should become president. But the Talas oblast is not all of Kyrgyzstan,” Arzimatova concluded.

The Talas province is Babanov’s “small homeland”, he was born there.

According to the official results of the presidential elections that took place on October 15, Jeenbekov received the largest number of votes – 54.22%, followed by Babanov with 33.49%.

The richest man in Kyrgyzstan

According to the Central Election Commission of Kyrgyzstan, out of 11 candidates who participated in the presidential election, Babanov had the largest pre-election promotion fund, 200.5 million soms.

With a fortune estimated at $1.5 billion, he is considered the richest Kyrgyz in the world. Prior to entering politics, he was engaged in business and headed large companies involved in the export of cotton and the supply of petroleum products to the country.

Babanov is the owner of a cement plant in the Penza region of Russia. The plant with a $370 million budget annually produces 1.86 million tons of cement.

He also owns Internet media and a TV channel, an auto market and a bank in Bishkek. The recently opened Asia Mall in Bishkek belongs to his wife Rita Birbaeva, who received a $17 million loan from the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund for its construction.

Background

In 2005, after the Tulip Revolution, Babanov was elected to Parliament. In 2007, he joined the opposition, demanding the resignation of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. After the revolution of 2010, he joined the government of Almazbek Atambayev as the first deputy prime minister.

Under President Akayev, Babanov was a close friend of President’s son Aidar Akayev, and that friendship led his business to prosperity. Later, he continued his career and business with Maxim Bakiyev, son of the second Kyrgyz president.

After the April 2010 revolution, Babanov became the leader of the Respublika political party.

After Atambayev was elected president in October 2011, Babanov was prime minister but left the post after in August 2012, he was accused of receiving a horse worth $1.2 million from a Turkish businessman.