Thursday June 13, 2024

Kyrgyzstan faces new crisis as ex-president stripped of immunity

June 28, 2019

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan voted on Thursday to lift the immunity of a former president, paving the way for a prosecution that could provoke a political crisis in the fragile Central Asian state.

Prosecutors accuse 62-year-old Almazbek Atambayev of making illegal land purchases and of corruption, but he enjoyed immunity from criminal prosecution as a former leader. Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, loyal to Atambayev’s successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov, voted 103 to six in favour of lifting that protection.

Moves against Atambayev may lead to a major power struggle in Kyrgyzstan, which has seen a series of political crises and revolutions since gaining independence with the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

The defiant former leader has stepped up security at his residence in the village of Koi-Tash, outside the capital Bishkek, with around 200 "guards" checking visitors’ bags, and a press centre has also been set up there. Around dozen supporters arrived on horseback at the residence in the foothills of Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountains on Thursday, an AFP journalist saw.

Nomadic yurts or tents have been set up outside the premises to house visitors. Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Atambayev said he would "stand to the end" against the charges and "has no intention of complying with the courts and prosecutors."

"I am not afraid of anything in this world. I’ve been in jail, had attacks on my life, I was poisoned," said Atambayev, who served as president from 2011 to 2017. "If I submit to this mafia clan then maybe half the population of Kyrgyzstan will fall," he said in a reference to the Jeenbekov administration. Long in opposition, Atambayev became Russia-allied Kyrgyzstan’s first elected president to hand over power peacefully in 2017, following revolutions in 2005 and 2010.