Kyrgyzstan parliament advances bill to cancel ex-presidents immunity

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyzstan’s lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would eliminate immunity for ex-presidents, potentially opening the path for the prosecution of the country’s ex-President Almazbek Atambayev, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

The parliamentary committee for legislation, state structures, and judicial issues approved the bill on November 27, meaning it is now likely to go to the full parliament for debate.

The committee’s backing comes amid persistent tension between Atambayev, who heads the ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SDPK), and his successor, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a former Atambayev ally.

Hours before the decision was announced, opposition groups and parties told reporters in Bishkek they want to hold Atambayev responsible for what they called “usurping power and betrayal of the April 2010 revolution’s ideals.”

That was a reference to the antigovernment protests that pushed President Kurmanbek Bakiev from power five years after his predecessor, Askar Akaev, was ousted in similar fashion.

At a Kurultai (Congress) last week, representatives of opposition parties and organizations said that they came to the conclusion that Atambayev — the country’s president from 2011 to 2017 — must face trial.

They said they will urge the Prosecutor-General’s Office to launch an investigation focusing on Atambayev.

Emil Kaptagaev, a former governor of the northern Issyk-Kul region, said that Jeenbekov “has inherited a corrupt system of governance.”

In October, Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court ruled that the immunity enjoyed by the country’s former presidents is unconstitutional.

Only two post-Soviet Kyrgyz leaders currently enjoy the official status of ex-presidents: Roza Otunbaeva, who was interim president in 2010-11; and Atambayev.

Akaev and Bakiev were stripped of the status when they fled Kyrgyzstan following their ousters.

Both have been sentenced in absentia to lengthy prison terms on charges including corruption and abuse of office.

In recent months, some politicians and lawmakers have called for an investigation into some of Atambayev’s decisions while in office.

Several of his close allies have been arrested on suspicion of corruption this year.

Atambayev helped steer Jeenbekov, who had been his prime minister, into the presidency in an October 2017 election. But the two have exchanged public accusations of unprofessionalism in recent months.

Sergey Kwan

TCA