Kyrgyz Opposition Leader on Trial for Corruption
- Written by Bermet Talant
The head of an Kyrgyz opposition party and an ex-minister went on trial Monday for allegedly receiving US$ one million from a Russian businessman for helping him buy a Kyrgyz mobile operator.
RFE/ RL reported.Ata-Meken Omurbek Tekebaev and former minister of emergencies, Duishenkul Chotonov, appeared in front of the Birinchi May District Court in Bishkek and denied the corruption charges, claiming the case politically motivated,
Prosecutors claim that the two received the bribe from Russian businessman, Leonid Mayevsky, in 2010.
Mayevsky said that Tekebaev - who was a deputy prime minister of the Kyrgyzstan Interim government at that time - took the bribe in cash and promised to help him buy the Megacom mobile operator.
But then "Tekebaev didn’t keep his word and refused to return the money, threatening of bodily harm," Mayevsky said in a video released on February 25.
The prosecutors believe ex-MP and minister of emergencies Chotonov was an intermediary in the corruption deal.
Tekebaev said in the courtroom that he was "ready to fight", according to Kloop.kg.
Tekebaev and his lawyers said due to May holidays, they had not enough time to review all the documents in this case. The judge agreed to postpone the trial until June 8.
Tekebaev was arrested on February 26 upon arrival in Bishkek from Austria. In March, his party Ata-Meken nominated him as candidate for the 2017 presidential election scheduled for October 15. He hasn’t been registered as such yet.
Human rights activist Rita Karasartova believes that the trial won’t last long enough to keep Tekebaev off the ballot.
"The trial will be fast", she said on June 5 in an interview to Kloop.kg. "Today the prosecution and the judge were interested in it. I think it has something to do with not giving Tekebaev an opportunity to run for presidency", she said.
Ata-Meken party, which holds 11 mandates in the Kyrgyz parliament, alleged that the prosecution was motivated by the conflict between Tekebaev and Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev.
Both politicians used to be allies. However, the confrontation began in 2016 when Ata-Meken stood against the amendments to the Constitution which had been proposed by the president and his administration. The amendments were adopted at the referendum in December.
After that Tekebaev claimed Atambayev had hidden assets in Cyprus but hasn’t provided any evidence of his words.