Former Kyrgyzstan president arrested, accused of coup plot

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Bishkek – The head of Kyrgyzstan’s security forces accused ex-president Almazbek Atambayev on Tuesday of planning to stage a coup, state news agency Kabar said, following a deadly clash last week with police sent to his house to arrest him.

Atambayev surrendered on Thursday when police raided his home and detained him for questioning over a corruption case, laying bare a power struggle with his successor Sooronbai Jeenbekov that has pushed the Central Asian nation to the brink of political crisis.

Atambayev’s supporters had repulsed a similar raid the previous day in which a deputy commander of a special forces unit was killed.

In an indictment related to the botched raid, prosecutors on Tuesday charged him with murder, hostage-taking and causing mass unrest, Kabar said.

Atambayev has dismissed criminal investigations against him as politically motivated and illegal.

National security chief Orozbek Opumbayev on Tuesday accused the former president of seeking bloodshed.

"Then, blaming it on the authorities, he would have been able to stage a coup," Kabar quoted Opumbayev as saying.

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Supporters of former president Almazbek Atambayev throw rocks as they fight with riot police near Atambayev’s residence about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Picture: Vladimir Voronin/AP

Opumbayev said Atambayev shot at security officers with his sniper rifle, fatally wounding one of them. Atambayev said last week he had fired off several shots, but most were warning ones directed into the air.

His lawyer Sergei Slesarev declined to comment on Atambayev’s position with regards to the charges. He said Atambayev refused to be questioned.

The authorities have also impounded Atambayev’s assets including the April television station which had helped the former president reach a broad audience.

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Police in Kyrgyzstan detained the Central Asian nation’s ex-president following violent clashes with his supporters, a day after a previous attempt to arrest him left one policeman dead and nearly 80 people injured. Picture: Vladimir Voronin/AP

Separately, the Interior Ministry said deputy minister Kursan Asanov, who personally negotiated Atambayev’s surrender, has been sacked for "betraying the interests of Kyrgyz police". It provided no details.

In several videos posted online, Asanov could be seen talking to Atambayev and his supporters and discussing the terms on which they would be taken into custody, such as Atambayev’s two bodyguards going along with him in the same car.

Atambayev, who served as president of the former Soviet republic between 2011 and 2017, backed his then-ally Jeenbekov’s presidential bid, hoping to retain political influence.

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Kyrgyz riot police enter the residence of former president Almazbek Atambayev in the village of Koi-Tash, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the capital, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Picture: Vladimir Voronin/AP

But Jeenbekov purged Atambayev loyalists from his cabinet last year, prompting a falling-out between the two which was followed by several criminal probes targeting Atambayev and his close associates.

Kyrgyzstan has been a close ally of Moscow and hosts a Russian military airbase. Atambayev met Vladimir Putin last month but the Russian president subsequently endorsed Jeenbekov in public.

A former Communist apparatchik and businessman, Atambayev took part in revolts in 2005 and 2010 that deposed two consecutive presidents, earning Kyrgyzstan a reputation as Central Asia’s most politically volatile nation. 


Reuters

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