Kyrgyz Opposition MP Under Pressure

Kubanychbek Kadyrov could now face charges, in what his opposition colleagues see as a politically-inspired campaign to marginalise government critic.

Kyrgyz Opposition MP Under Pressure

Kubanychbek Kadyrov could now face charges, in what his opposition colleagues see as a politically-inspired campaign to marginalise government critic.

Opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan have expressed outrage that a colleague has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity so that prosecutors can question and possibly charge him. The prosecution service, meanwhile, argues that Kubanychbek Kadyrov has been using his immunity to obstruct an investigation into unrest during the July presidential election.

Parliament, which is dominated by the governing Ak Jol party, voted on September 18 to strip Kadyrov of his statutory rights to immunity.

The prosecution service requested the move on the grounds that it suspected Kadyrov, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, of being behind disturbances that broke out in Balykchi, a town on the shores of Lake Issykkul, as voters went to the polls on July 23.

After opposition supporters clashed with police during a protest against the conduct of the election, 20 arrests were made. The trial of the 19 who were eventually charged began on September 11. As well as causing public disorder and disrupting the electoral process, they also stand accused of the more serious offence of “attempting to seize power”, which effectively means mounting a coup d’etat. They deny the charge.

Although small demonstrations were staged in other parts of Kyrgyzstan, there is little evidence to suggest any ambition to overthrow the government. Statements by opposition leaders and demonstrators have focused on the argument that the election was stolen by incumbent president Kurmanbek Bakiev’s backers through various kinds of election fraud.

The national election body said Bakiev won overwhelmingly with 76 per cent of the vote. His nearest challenger, Almazbek Atambaev, the Social Democrats’ leader nominated by the United People’s Movement, UPM, a coalition of opposition parties, was awarded just eight per cent.

Atambaev believes Kadyrov is being punished for taking a stand during the election.

“The authorities are persecuting dissidents and anyone who speaks out about the mass fraud in the presidential election,” he said.

Omurbek Tekebaev, who leads the Ata Meken, also part of the UPM coalition, accuses the parliamentary majority of pandering to the authorities.

“The Ak Jol members dutifully carried out their orders,” he said. “These actions mark a new phase in the intimidation of political opponents.”

However, Ulugbek Ormonov, who leads the Ak Jol parliamentary group, insisted that the decision to remove Kadyrov’s immunity had nothing to do with politics and could not be construed as a tactic to smear the opposition.

“The decision was taken not in order to put Kadyrov behind bars, but to ensure he does not obstruct the investigation by citing immunity,” he said. “A court will decide whether he is guilty or not.”

Isa Omurkulov of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group said there had been no need for legislators to act against Kadyrov, as his party was keen to see him cooperating with the Balykchi investigation.

The parliamentary vote came as another Social Democrat in parliament, Baktybek Beshimov, left the country and issued a statement saying he had received death threats. In the September 28 statement, he also condemned the action taken against Kadyrov, saying this had “completed the destruction of the legislature”.

Kyrgyz prosecutor-general Elmurza Satybaldiev told IWPR that Beshimov had not informed the authorities of any death threat.

“There was no threat to his life. There was no written complaint from him,” he said.

Although the two cases are different, some analysts see them as part of a larger effort to neutralise the opposition by hounding the more uncompromising figures like Beshimov, and coopting those with more moderate views.

“The moderate opposition will remain in politics if it changes its strategy, while the radicals will be excluded,” said political analyst Mars Sariev.

There are indications that elements within the UPM are making tentatively attempts to engage with the Bakiev administration.

However, Azimbek Beknazarov, a leading UPM figure, told IWPR that dialogue would be possible only on the opposition’s terms.

“Leaders of the united opposition are prepared to sit down at the negotiating table with President Bakiev, to discuss an end to the persecution of his political opponents,” he said, adding that the Balykchi trial would be one of the issues raised.

Anara Yusupova is a pseudonym for a journalist in Kyrgyzstan.

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