Tue, 22 Oct 2019

BISHKEK -- Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have voted overwhelmingly to lift the immunity of former President Almazbek Atambaev, clearing a path for his prosecution on charges of corruption that could rattle the Central Asian nation.

In the June 27 vote, 103 deputies supported the measure to strip Atambaev's immunity, while six voted against it.

The move appears to set up a showdown with Atambaev, who has rejected all accusations leveled against him that he abused his powers while in office, pledging on June 26 to 'stand to the end.'

Atambaev, a northerner who faces five counts of misconduct while being in office, including corruption, abuse of office, and illegal enrichment, has said he possesses weapons to protect himself in case of his arrest.

In a sign of how tensions, spurred in part by regional differences, are simmering, hundreds of the former president's supporters have gathered at his residence in the Koi-Tash settlement near Bishkek, building traditional nomadic yurts and pledging 'moral and physical support' for Atambaev.

'Ordinary people will not allow the authorities to implement their plan to annihilate [Atambaev],' Atambaev supporter Farkhat Baabiev told RFE/RL.

Unchecked Corruption

After spending time in opposition, Atambaev became the first elected president in Kyrgyzstan to peacefully relinquish power following revolutions in 2005 and 2010 when his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a southerner won an October 2017 election.

But Atambaev has also come to symbolize the country's political immaturity that has thwarted development and left corruption unchecked.

The state prosecutor charged the 62-year-old on the basis of accusations leveled against him by a legislature loyal to Jeenbekov. Several of Atambaev's close allies have been arrested on corruption charges.

Earlier this month, Kyrgyz authorities arrested ex-chief of the presidential office's department for judicial system reform, Manasbek Arabaev, on corruption charges.

Sapar Isakov and Jantoro Satybaldiev, both of whom served as prime ministers under Atambaev, have also been charged with corruption.

Last year Kyrgyz officials arrested former customs chief, Adamkul Junusov, and former adviser Ikramjan Ilmiyanov on similar charges.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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