Kyrgyzstan: Special forces fail to arrest former president Atambayev

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Kyrgyz forces withdrew from the village where former President Almazbek Atambayev resides early on August 8 after an unsuccessful attempt to arrest him in a raid that left one serviceman dead and 45 people hospitalized with injuries, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

The decision was based on negotiations with Atambayev supporters who agreed to free all six servicemen whom they had taken hostage during the failed special forces operation late on August 7.

Authorities moved on the former president’s compound to carry out a subpoena in an unspecified investigation, but were met with bloody resistance by Atambayev’s supporters.

Afterward Atambayev released a video statement on August 8 that Aprel TV aired in which he called the attempt to arrest him unconstitutional and illegal.

Atambayev said he has offered to provide written responses to questions, but “the authorities did not heed my calls to act within the confines of the law…I am ready to answer any questions, because there was no corruption,” he said.

He also called on the authorities to ensure that the “special forces do not shoot at your own people.”

Apart from the serviceman who died of his wounds, the Health Ministry said 35 other people were wounded in the clash, including 15 police officers.

Chuy regional police chief Samat Kurmankulov was among the injured servicemen. Doctors operated on his head and he is listed as in critical condition, the Health Ministry said. His head trauma was from rocks thrown at the oncoming police.

Atambayev was in the courtyard shaking hands with supporters when the assault on the compound began.

A video showed him being whisked away, but still within the sprawling premises.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard during the initial invasion and continued into the night as supporters poured into the area.

Police were seen firing tear gas into crowds that had gathered outside the heavily fortified compound as they looked for a way to enter it.

Video appeared to show dozens of supporters had managed to get into the compound.

The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security said the police used only rubber bullets.

The office of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov said in a statement that he had interrupted his vacation and is returning to Bishkek from a resort at Issyk-Kul Lake.

Atambayev, who was limited to a single six-year presidential term by the constitution, vocally backed Jeenbekov in an October 2017 presidential election.

But the two have traded accusations of incompetence and a lack of professionalism in recent months.

The storming of the compound comes after Deputy Interior Minister Mirlan Kanimetov and several other officials visited Atambayev on July 22 after he had refused to obey a subpoena for a third time.

Under Kyrgyz law, a person who refuses to comply with two subpoenas can be forcibly detained for questioning.

Atambayev faces five counts of criminally abusing his office when he was Kyrgyzstan’s president from 2011 to 2017 — including corruption, abuse of office, and illegally enriching himself.

Atambayev has rejected all charges against him, saying they are politically motivated.

After parliament on June 27 voted to strip immunity from prosecution for former presidents, Atambayev has spent most of his time at his residential compound and has publicly stated that he has weapons.

His lawyer has called immunity vote unconstitutional.

Sergey Kwan

TCA