Written by Allan Millward
March 5, 2023
In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, the Pervomaisk district court has granted former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev permission to leave the country for medical treatment. This comes alongside another judicial victory for the embattled leader after the country’s Supreme Court annulled his 11-year sentence for corruption and abuse of power in 2020. The charges were for his involvement in the early release of a crime boss and the Supreme Court subsequently sent the case for a retrial. For former President Atambayev and his supporters, these judicial victories were a welcome change from his dramatic fall from grace. Having served as President of Kyrgyzstan from 2011 to 2017, Atambayev stepped down and was replaced by Sooronbai Jeenbekov. He had assumed that Jeenbekov, an ally at the time, would be easy to manipulate but this turned out not to be the case. President Jeenbekov sidelined Atambayev’s allies in the government, the legislator stripped Atambayev of immunity status as a former president, and in 2019 Atambayev’s estate was raided by special forces. The former President was brought out in handcuffs for his previous refusal to answer a police summons. A special forces trooper died during the raid and if Atambayev is to return, he may still face conspiracy to murder charges for it.
During his imprisonment, Atambayev’s supporters claimed he was not receiving adequate medical treatment for heart trouble and gastritis and Jeenbekov was deposed and replaced by the current President Japarov. Despite having served time in prison under Atambayev’s reign Japarov chose not to interfere with the decision of the courts stating, “since the court and law enforcement agencies have decided so, then we must obey this.” After greeting his supporters upon exiting the Moldovanovka prison colony Atambayev returned to his estate where he was first walked out in handcuffs several years ago. While speaking to supporters at his estate Atambayev said he would no longer engage in politics and instead devote his life to his family. “Prison changes a person a lot,” he said. “You see what is true and what is false, including among people and your friends.” He said he would be traveling to Spain to receive medical treatment and claimed, “I’ll be back,” when asked if he was going to return to Kyrgyzstan. What legal issues will greet him on his return remains to be seen.
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