Kyrgyzstan: ex-President Atambayev makes political statement following high-profile arrests

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyzstan’s former President Almazbek Atambayev on June 6 made a political statement after on June 5, the State Committee for National Security arrested former Prime Minister Sapar Isakov and former Mayor of Bishkek and former head of the State Customs Service, Kubanychbek Kulmatov, on corruption charges.

“Yesterday’s decision to take into custody the former prime minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, SDPK [Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan] deputy chairman, Sapar Isakov, and the former chairman of the State Customs Service, a member of the Political Council of our party, Kubanychbek Kulmatov, is not a fight against corruption,” Atambayev said in the statement, published by 24.kg news agency. “Contrary to common sense, the people who had distinguished themselves in the fight against corruption were arrested on corruption charges. The government of Sapar Isakov for 4 months of this year provided a budget surplus of 5 billion soms. This indicator was achieved for the first time in the history of independent Kyrgyzstan. And the key role here was played by the receipts from the customs bodies, which Sapar Isakov and Kubanychbek Kulmatov began to clear from corrupt officials.”

“I also officially declare that neither the then head of the presidential administration department, Sapar Isakov, nor Kubanychbek Kulmatov, when he was the mayor of Bishkek, were empowered to independently make the decisions that were the basis of the charges brought against them by the investigation. Despite their absurdity, I have so far refrained from public statements in order to enable law enforcement bodies to independently understand the matter. However, today I see that they were tasked with arrest of Isakov and Kulmatov under any pretext,” Atambayev’s statement says.

According to him, all the strategic decisions on the reconstruction of the Bishkek Heating and Power Plant at the expense of China’s credit, including the agreement to choose the contractor by the Chinese side, as well as the decision to redirect foreign grant funds for construction of a school in Kalys Ordo residential area were made by himself, Almazbek Atambayev, as the head of state and by the government after extensive discussions with the heads of relevant state bodies.

“The key role of the president of the country in making such decisions is conditioned by the existing deficit of responsibility of state bodies and employees, the duties of the head of state in foreign policy, as well as the requirements for the implementation of the National Sustainable Development Strategy,” Atambayev said.

Atambayev, who is also the SDPK leader, said that under the pretext of the fight against corruption, authorities have begun a witch hunt.

Atambayev said that the current director of the anti-corruption service is pushing President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to a dangerous path.

“SDPK intends to act solely within the framework of the law and the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, to demand legitimacy, to appeal to public opinion, to uphold the rights and legitimate interests of our comrades,” Atambayev concluded.

The charge against Isakov stems from 2013, when he was implementing a project to modernize the Bishkek Thermal Power Station while serving as deputy head of the administration of then President Almazbek Atambayev.

He is accused of using his position to lobby for the interests of a Chinese company in the selection process of a contractor for the modernization of the power plant, inflicting great damage on the Kyrgyz state and society.

The Chinese company TBEA has been selected as the winner of the tender. The case was launched after an accident at the Bishkek power station in January left thousands of households in the capital without heat for several days last winter.

Isakov, who denies wrongdoing, had suggested he believed the state may mount a corruption case against former officials over the heating outages, but said Atambayev and his team had “worked in a clean way, with no corruption whatsoever.”

Both Isakov and Kulmatov are considered to be close associates of Atambayev.

The pressure on Isakov was seen as one of several examples of an ongoing rift between President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and his predecessor, Atambayev, who backed Jeenbekov in the October presidential election but has criticized him in recent weeks.

In April, Jeenbekov fired several Atambayev allies, including Prosecutor-General Indira Joldubaeva and State Committee for National Security head Abdil Segizbaev.

Sergey Kwan

TCA