PHOTO: Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP
Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president Almazbek Atambayev was plotting to overthrow the government before he was detained in raids on his compound last week, the country’s security services alleged Tuesday.
Last week’s arrest of Atambayev, who was president from 2011 to 2017, has raised fears of new political turmoil in the Central Asian nation.
Kyrgyz authorities are now investigating Atambayev for violence and organising riots, in addition to five existing criminal cases against him – all of which could potentially amount to a long prison sentence.
The ex-leader was seized in a massive security operation on Thursday after an attempt to detain him the day before sparked deadly clashes between his supporters and law enforcement.
“He wanted bloodshed. His intention was a state coup,” Orozbek Opumbayev, the head of the national security services (GKNB), told a news conference in Bishkek.
The head of the state prosecutor’s investigations department said Atambayev would also be probed for organising attempted murder, after one law enforcement officer died in the clashes last week.
“Atambayev is suspected of using violence against government officials, organising riots, and organising attempted murders,” Zamir Beishekeev said.
Kyrgyzstan’s chief of police said Tuesday that the clashes left 170 injured – mostly servicemen, of whom two remain in critical condition.
Kyrgyzstan, which has seen two revolutions in less than two decades, is caught in a standoff between Atambayev and his protege-turned-foe President Sooronbai Jeenbekov.
A court on Thursday ordered Atambayev to be held in pre-trial detention until August 26, a period that can be extended by another court order.
Some 120 items of property belonging to him have been confiscated by the court, prosecutors said.
Eight non-government organisations and independent media outlets demanded Saturday that authorities reverse the seizure of a television channel called “April” owned by Atambayev which authorities raided and shut down following his detention.
Five Criminal Cases
Prior to his arrest Atambayev had ignored three police summonses for questioning in connection with the release of a well-known underworld figure, ethnic Chechen Aziz Batukayev, in 2013 during his presidency.
The case was among five criminal cases in which Atambayev figured before the clashes at his residency outside Bishkek sparked further investigations.
Beishekeev said Tuesday that other new criminal cases opened following the clashes included a murder case linked to the officer’s death, hostage-taking and organising mass disturbances.
Farid Niyazov, who served as chief of staff to both Atambayev and Jeenbekov, was detained Thursday over the holding of several special forces officers hostage and organisation of mass unrest as the raid on Atambayev’s compound descended into chaos.
Several other Atambayev supporters including two sitting lawmakers have been questioned in connection with the clashes.
Jeenbekov and Atambayev were once friends, and the former leader backed the incumbent in the 2017 election, triggering accusations that administrative resources were used to sway the vote.
That vote marked an unprecedented peaceful transfer of power between heads of state in the Muslim-majority nation of six million people.
The standoff has drawn in Russia — the country’s Soviet-era master and traditional political patron — where hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz work as migrant labourers.
Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin met with both Jeenbekov and Atambayev in Moscow in a bid to defuse the confrontation.
Mars Sariyev, a pro-Moscow political analyst in Bishkek said that Putin’s call in July to support the current president in order to bolster stability had made it difficult for Atambayev to build a coalition to challenge Jeenbekov.
But Sariyev suggested Moscow might not have ditched Atambayev – a loyal former partner – just yet.
“Anything can happen. There are even rumours Moscow advised Atambayev to surrender. Perhaps come autumn or spring he will be on a plane there again,” Sariyev told AFP.
PHOTO: Vyacheslav OSELEDKO / AFP