Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Kyrgyzstan's Former President Sentences to 24 Years In Jail

Published in Field Reports

by Joldosh Osmanov (02/20/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Kyrgyzstan’s former President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his brother have been found guilty of murdering a former presidential chief of staff and two other people by a Kyrgyz military court. While many local observers are pessimistic about the impact of the court decision on the prospect of Bakiev’s extradition from Belarus, some claim that the ruling still holds political importance.

 On February 11, the military court of the Bishkek garrison sentenced former Kyrgyz President Bakiev to 24 years in jail in absentia and confiscation of his property for his involvement in the triple murder of Medet Sadyrkulov, the former head of his presidential administration, Sergey Slepchenko, a former director of the Strategic Research Institute under the Kyrgyz president, and the driver Kubat Sulaimanov. The former president, who has escaped to Belarus after the change of government in April 2010, was found guilty of abuse of power and “engagement with an organized criminal group which has inflicted huge damage on the state.” The court also sentenced the president’s younger brother Janysh Bakiev, the former head of the Kyrgyz State Guarding Service, who was accused of several crimes including the murders of two or more people, to life imprisonment and stripping him of his military rank lieutenant general.

Sadyrkulov was considered to be Bakiev’s closest ally and an influential power broker until his voluntary resignation in January 2009 due to disagreement with the president’s policies. He was believed to be the architect of the pro-presidential Ak Zhol political party, which controlled the parliament during Bakiev’s regime. Immediately after his resignation, Sadyrkulov allegedly succeeded in uniting most of the opposition leaders and was preparing to launch mass anti-governmental protests across the country. In March 2009, he, along with Slepchenko and Sulaimanov, was found dead in a burned-out car at the outskirts of Bishkek. At the time, the incident was officially termed a car accident.

The sentences were announced in the absence of both Kurmanbek and Janysh Bakiev, who currently reside in Minsk, Belarus, under the protection of Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko. The Kyrgyz authorities have made numerous appeals to Minsk demanding the extradition of the two suspects; however, the Belarusian side has refused to comply claiming that the accusations are politically motivated.

In the meantime, the former president and his brother are both defendants in the ongoing trial related to the April 2010 events, which led to the ouster of Bakiev’s regime and his family, where they are accused of killing over 90 protesters. According to the public prosecutors, Kurmanbek and Janysh Bakiev gave the order to open fire on opposition protesters. Due to its political nature, the trial has dragged on for more than two years and it is still unknown when it will conclude. Nevertheless, it seems obvious that the Bakievs will be found guilty and sentenced to additional prison terms.

The announced court verdicts against the two brothers gave rise to widespread discussion in Kyrgyzstan. The opinions of political experts and analysts are divided regarding what significant impact these sentences will have on the attempts of Kyrgyzstan’s authorities to have the Bakievs extradited from Belarus. Former Kyrgyz Justice Minister Mukar Cholponbaev said that the court’s decision is the main prerequisite for demanding the extradition of a suspect from another country; therefore, the verdict will definitely increase the chances of bringing the former president to Kyrgyzstan. On the other hand, many analysts claim that the Belarusian leadership is firm in its position on this issue, which is unlikely to change due to any official court decision. Moreover, Bakiev’s family has been granted Belarusian citizenship and hence cannot be extradited.

Local political expert Mars Sariev says that this court decision signals the start of a political housecleaning by the country’s current leadership. He claims that the current leaders want to draw a clear line between the previous and current regimes and plan to launch a political purge against the former president’s allies who are still in power or plan a return to the political scene.

Russian journalist and expert Arkadiy Dubnov termed the court’s verdict unprecedented, claiming that this is the first case in the history of the CIS countries when a former president is officially termed guilty. A number of criminal investigations have been conducted against former CIS presidents, but these have never produced actual verdicts. Dubnov noted that the chances of having former president Bakiev extradited are minimal, but that the ruling holds political significance in itself.


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