Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Cries Foul Play Over Jailed Leader

Officials say Feliks Kulov won’t be allowed out of prison until next year’s presidential election is over.
By Sultan Jumagulov

Documents that could allow the release of Kyrgyzstan’s most famous prisoner, Feliks Kulov, have been deliberately removed from his file, his supporters say.


Kulov, a former security minister and deputy premier, was first arrested in 2000 shortly after declaring his intention to run against President Askar Akaev in an election. Acquitted later that year, he was re-arrested and in 2001 sentenced to seven years for abuse of office. In May 2002, he received a 10-year jail term after another court convicted him of embezzling funds while he was mayor of the capital, Bishkek, the last official position he held.


Although Kulov remains in jail, his Arnamys party continues to be active in the opposition and campaign for the release of its leader, who it insists was jailed on trumped up charges because President Akaev saw him as a threat.


On August 3, the party announced that crucial trial papers had disappeared from Kulov’s official file. Arnamys officials were alerted to the loss after a prison commission met on July 31 and turned down Kulov’s application for early release, saying he should stay in jail until November 2005 before he can come out on probation.


Kulov responded by writing to a local court saying that the verdict from the 2001 trial was no longer on file. That is important because according to his party, the November 2005 release date was “based on an incorrect calculation”, since it took the 2002 conviction, not the sentence passed the previous year and recorded in the missing document, as the starting date for Kulov’s detention.


Furthermore, Arnamys alleged that prison officials intentionally ignored the fact that Kulov spent several months in pre-trial detention at the security ministry, both before and after his trials in 2001 and 2002. Kulov’s lawyer Lyubov Ivanova says he remained at this detention centre until April 2003 instead of being transferred to a prison for convicted persons. According to Ivanova, the law says that one day in pre-trial detention counts as two in a conventional prison, so the 10 months for which Kulov was held at the security ministry facility is equivalent to a year and nine months, so the time her client spends in jail should be reduced accordingly.


As a result, Kulov should have become eligible for release on probation on August 5, say his supporters. The authorities’ failure to allow this, as a result of what Arnamys says is deliberate miscalculation, is a ploy to keep the opposition leader locked up and out of the way until a presidential election is held in October 2005 – a month before the date now scheduled for his release.


"The leadership is concerned that if Kulov were given an early release, he might engage in political activity and take part in the next presidential elections," said Emil Aliev, deputy head of Arnamys.


The justice ministry official responsible for the penal system, Vladimir Nosov, denied that any papers had disappeared from Kulov's file, saying, “My employees are so honest and conscientious that they are not capable of making such a blunder. Whatever people say, the court alone will have the final say on Kulov's release."


President Akaev's press secretary, Abdil Segizbaev, expressed doubt that any documents could have disappeared. "Even if they were lost, there would be no problem obtaining a copy, as they were kept in many different departments," he told IWPR. “It seems that the Arnamys party is making another racket so as to raise the already low rating of their leader.”


Relatives say Kulov’s fighting spirit remains unbroken. His aunt, Jumagul Kulova, who visited him recently, told IWPR, "Feliks is in a good mood and he intends to fight to the end, as he is convinced that he was imprisoned unjustly."


Sultan Jumagulov is a correspondent for the BBC. IWPR’s Kyrgyzstan programme coordinator, Ainagul Abdrakhmanova, also contributed to this report.