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Akaev Snubs Kyrgyz Investigators

Prosecutor general warns that ex-president’s immunity from prosecution could be stripped from him if wrongdoing is proved.
By Aida Kasymalieva

Kyrgyzstan’s new authorities want to question deposed former president Askar Akaev, who is now resident in Russia, in connection with alleged wrongdoing during his time in office.

Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov said that a group of Kyrgyz investigators had arrived in Moscow on June 21 to question Akaev, his wife Mairam Akaeva and his son-in-law Adil Toigonbaev about “property of the ex-president and members of his family, on corruption during the years of his rule, and on the activity of the charitable foundation Meerim which was headed by Mairam Akaeva”.

However, the former president has so far refused to meet with the investigators, whom he accused of slander. At a press conference in Moscow on June 23, Akaev’s lawyer Maksim Maksimovich told journalists, “If the investigation strives to establish the truth, then a meeting will be possible, [but not if it is] used for political games.”

In turn, the prosecutor general has said that if the investigation indicates that the former president is guilty of any wrongdoing, steps could be taken to remove the immunity from prosecution he currently enjoys under the Kyrgyz constitution.

Beknazarov told IWPR, “Maksimovich said that Askar Akaev did not wish to meet with the investigators, as he had nothing to talk to them about. If he doesn’t want to, then he doesn’t have to, and we will continue to conduct the investigation.

“The ex-president has immunity and we cannot bring charges against him, but he is obliged to testify [in related cases].”

Beknazarov added that criminal cases have been opened against the ex-president’s son Aidar Akaev, Toigonbaev, ex-prime minister Nikolai Tanaev and Urmatbek Baryktabasov, a businessman.

According to the assessment of a specially create state commission, the republic of Kyrgyzstan lost almost 50 million US dollars in the last five years of Akaev family rule. Besides alleged financial abuses, the Kyrgyz authorities suspect the former ruling clan of involvement in an attempted counter-revolution on June 17, when several thousand people seized the House of Government in Bishkek for a brief period.

The following day, Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov told a press conference that he had proof that the events in Bishkek on June 17 were financed by Askar Akaev’s family, and alleged that Toigonbaev had personally funded the storming and capture of the House of Government.

This claim has angered the former president, who asserts in turn that the new authorities – who swept to power in March’s so-called tulip revolution – are trying to discredit him “politically and morally”.

As a result, the Russian media reported on June 21, the former president had refused to cooperate with the prosecutor general’s investigators, and published a comment by Askar Akaev denying any guilt. “My participation in the questioning undertaken by the prosecutor general’s office would be participating in a political farce, with the aim of discrediting me. I will not take part in dirty political games initiated at the final stage of the presidential campaign in the republic,” the ex-president’s statement read.

“All the negative events in Kyrgyzstan are being connected to me and members of my family. Only in some wild nightmarish fantasy could we be blamed for organising the [counter-revolutionary] incidents in June. It seems that slandering the ex-president is seen as the best method of preparing for the presidential elections scheduled for July 10.”

Akin Toktaliev, the former president’s representative in Kyrgyzstan, told IWPR that he fully supported Askar Akaev’s decision to refuse to meet with the investigators.

“In three months of work [the investigators] have not come up with a single piece of evidence that Askar Akaev is guilty. According to the rules they should have first presented evidence to parliament, and only then appealed for permission to question the ex-president. Only then would they have had the right to go to Moscow to meet with him.”

The prosecutor general shrugged off such accusations, and stressed that steps would be taken to ensure the ex-president’s cooperation.

“If Askar Akaev refuses to testify, other investigative measures may be taken against him,” said Beknazarov. “When the investigation is completed, if the ex-president’s guilt is proved, then the prosecutor general’s office may appeal to the parliament of the republic to remove his constitutional immunity [from prosecution].”

Toktaliev said, “The plan of the prosecutor general to ask parliament to deprive Askar Akaev of his immunity is just empty talk. The investigation, by law, should only take two months, but three months have gone by. If the prosecutor’s office still has no proof, they will not be able to submit its proposal to parliament for examination. The parliament, in its turn, will also not approve.”

Parliamentary deputies are currently split over the possibility, with few willing to speak on record about the matter.

Deputy Temir Sariev told IWPR, “If [Askar Akaev] respects the law and Kyrgyzstan, he is obliged to come and testify. But removing the immunity of an ex-president is impossible under the constitution.”

But deputy Iskhak Masaliev told IWPR that if the issue of removing Askar Akaev’s immunity was submitted, he would approve it. “[The allegations] about Akaev’s involvement in the events of June 17 in Bishkek were simply an excuse for [the former president] to refuse to testify,” he claimed. “If the prosecutor general asks parliament to decide on immunity, votes in parliament will be divided 50-50.”

The editor of the human rights newspaper Tribuna, Yrysbek Omurzaov, told IWPR that it was unlikely that the Bishkek authorities would be able to arrest and charge the former president and members of his family and circle any time soon – if at all.

“Firstly, they are rich people, and this means a lot,” he said. “The second and most important thing is that they are protected, and will continue to be protected, by the Russian authorities. They were given refuge, and allowed to speak on all state media, including television. Everything depends on the position of the Russian leadership.”

Aida Kasymalieva is a correspondent for Azattyk (RFE/RL) in Bishkek. Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, IWPR programmes coordinator in Bishkek and Sultan Jumagulov, BBC correspondent in Bishkek, also contributed to this article.

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