Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Kyrgyz Prosecutor Gets Tough
Kyrgyzstan’s chief prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov is stepping up his investigation of members of former president Askar Akaev’s inner circle, but critics still question the commitment of the Bakiev government as a whole to clear out the old guard.
The latest Akaev loyalist to be summoned to Azimbek Beknazarov’s office was Sulaiman Imanbaev, the former head of the Central Electoral Commission, to answer questions about allegations he abused his official position during the controversial parliamentary elections last spring. Imanbaev was then formally charged.
One day earlier, on September 2, it was the turn of National Bank head Ulan Sarbanov, who was placed under house arrest in connection with a criminal case alleging he illegally transferred 480,000 US dollars to Akaev in 1999. Medet Sadyrkulov, the former head of the presidential administration and the ex-Iranian ambassador, faces similar charges.
In a sign that Beknazarov means business, former prime minister Nikolai Tanaev was arrested at the Ak Jol checkpoint on the Kyrgyz-Kazak border on September 6 when border guards recognised him as he was attempting to leave the country.
Tanaev returned to Kyrgyzstan in late August from Russia to defend himself on corruption charges, including abusing his official position and inflicting damage on the central government budget.
He had given a written pledge not to leave Bishkek and according to IWPR sources he is now being held at the National Security Service detention centre in Bishkek.
Maxim Maximovich, Tanaev’s lawyer, said the charges are unfounded and insisted his client wasn’t trying to flee Kyrgyzstan but was simply planning to visit Almaty for the day on a private matter.
“He should have forewarned investigators about it, and this is his only error,” said Maximovich, who also represents Akaev.
The others also deny any wrongdoing.
“It looks like they’re trying to scare me,” said Imanbaev. “During parliamentary elections I simply carried out my obligations in the framework of the law. The charges against me are completely unfounded.”
Sadyrkulov believes he and Sarbanov are victims of a campaign by the new administration to win populist support, and insists he knows nothing about any financial wrongdoing.
“We understood that these funds would be necessary for major undertakings in the interests of the state. We know that this money went to the president’s office. What happened to it afterwards we cannot say,” he said.
The recent arrests followed an announcement last month that charges had been filed against Aidar Akaev, the ex-president’s son. Beknazarov has announced he wants to remove the right to immunity from prosecution for some Kyrgyz deputies and Askar Akaev. Akaev junior was elected during the disputed spring elections which sparked the March revolution.
At the last session of parliament, Beknazarov - an opposition politician until the March revolution which ousted Akaev - promised deputies that he would vigorously pursue the cases against those implicated in alleged abuses, but admitted the investigation was proving complicated.
“The investigation is being hindered,” he said. “Some don’t come in for questioning, while others deliberately check in to hospital or go abroad.”
One deputy, however, is satisfied with the public prosecutor’s performance so far.
“Thanks to the revolutionary spirit and political will of this person, these criminal cases are being opened, and an investigation is underway,” said Muratbek Mukashev.
Others are less happy, however, suggesting that Beknazarov’s efforts alone are not enough to ensure all relics of the old regime are swept away.
Deputy Kubatbek Baibolov told IWPR, “The people who were close to Akaev and did whatever they wanted are still up there in the highest storeys of the House of Government.
“The fact that criminal cases are being opened against such people as Sarbanov and Sadyrkulov, and Tanaev’s arrest – this is all being done by the efforts of Beknazarov alone. All the rest are currently occupied with distributing portfolios and dividing up wealth.”
The chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, Ramazan Dyryldaev, is also dissatisfied, saying corruption remains a problem and is gradually creeping back into government.
“People are beginning to think that there isn’t much difference between the former and current regime, and that it would be better if Akaev came to power again,” he said.
Edil Baisalov, the leader of the NGO Coalition For Democracy and Civil Society, is also disappointed in the revolutionary regime. “It turns out that Akaev was the only corrupt one, and the rest of them were all clean,” said Baisalov
Cholpon Orozobekova is a correspondent for Radio Azattyk, the Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL, in Bishkek.
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