Kyrgyzstan: Two more charges brought against former President Atambayev

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Prosecutors in Kyrgyzstan have added two more charges against arrested former President Almazbek Atambayev, a week after a siege of his residential compound left one police officer dead and scores injured, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports.

Atambayev’s lawyer Sergei Slesarev told RFE/RL on August 14 that his client had been told he has been charged with corruption allegedly committed during the modernization of the Bishkek Thermal Power Station and during the privatization of a Forum building in the capital, Bishkek.

The new charges come a day after the Prosecutor-General’s Office charged the former president, 62, with using violence against state representatives, organizing mass unrest, murder, and attempted murder, and organizing hostage-taking.

Atambayev surrendered to police on August 8 following a deadly two-day standoff with security forces at his residential compound in the village of Koi-Tash near Bishkek.

The violence underscored a power struggle between Atambayev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

The move to detain Atambayev was sparked by his refusal to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning.

Kyrgyz authorities had said that Atambayev faced 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.

The storming of the compound came 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.

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

In the meantime, authorities have detained a man suspected of killing Lieutenant Colonel Usenbek Niyazbekov of Alpha special forces of the State Committee of National Security, 24.kg news agency reported on August 14 with reference to its sources.

Niyazbekov died of a gunshot wound during the first and failed storming of Atambayev’s compound by special forces on August 7.

In other news, Deputy Interior Minister Kursan Asanov, who personally negotiated Atambayev’s surrender on August 8 after two days of deadly resistance, has been fired for allegedly “betraying the interests of the Kyrgyz police and losing confidence.”

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Nargiza Kuvatova, told RFE/RL on August 14 that Asanov was relieved of his duties a day earlier amid an investigation by the Military Prosecutor’s Office into “unauthorized decisions” Asanov made during the standoff between Atambayev and special police forces.

“Kursan Asanov left the staff of the internal affairs bodies in danger and without command, thereby flagrantly violating the requirements of the current legislation. He also did not comply with the requirements of criminal procedural law by concealing evidence, objects, and other documents relevant to the case from the investigating authorities,” a statement from the Prosecutor’s Office said.

“Having studied the conclusion of the official investigation, the material collected by the Prosecutor-General’s Office was registered…under the article ‘abuse of official position’ of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. The pre-trial proceedings were entrusted to the Military Prosecutor’s Office,” it added.

Some local media outlets have reported that Asanov may have provided Atambayev and his supporters with secret information during clashes between the former president’s supporters and law enforcement troops in, and near, Atambayev’s residential compound in the village of Koi-Tash.

Kunduz Joldubayeva, deputy chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan and Atambayev’s close associate, told 24.kg news agency on August 14 that Asanov did not provide any information to Atambayev and his supporters.

Atambayev began dialogue with Asanov [on his surrender on August 8] because Asanov’s intonation showed interest in successful negotiations, Joldubayeva said.

The resistance put up by the former president and his supporters resulted in the death of one special forces officer and injuries to more than 170 others, including 79 law enforcement officers. Atambayev eventually surrendered to Asanov-led police forces on August 8.

Sergey Kwan

TCA