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Former Kyrgyz PM Abylgaziev Released From Pretrial Detention In Kumtor Case

Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev
Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev

BISHKEK -- Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, who was charged with corruption during the development of the Kumtor gold-mine project, has been released from pretrial detention.

Supreme Court officials told RFE/RL on August 24 that Abylgaziev was released four days earlier on condition that he wouldn't leave the country as he awaits trial.

The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) detained Abylgaziev in January on suspicion of helping the Kumtor Gold Company illegally obtain additional land for geological works and mining while in office.

Abylgaziev is also suspected of illegally obtaining unspecified amounts of cash while in office and investing that money into property in Bishkek and nearby districts.

The 53-year-old Abylgaziev served as prime minister from 2018 to 2020. He left the post in June 2020 amid a jump of coronavirus cases in the Central Asian nation.

There have been financial and environmental disagreements over Kumtor for years. It is currently the subject of an ongoing battle for control between the Kyrgyz state and the mine's operator, Canadian Centerra Gold.

The Kyrgyz government has temporarily taken over control of the mine in what President Sadyr Japarov has called a necessary move to address environmental and safety violations.

Centerra has called Kyrgyzstan's actions "wrongful and illegal."

In May, the Canadian firm said it had "initiated binding arbitration to enforce its rights under long-standing investment agreements with the government."

Several former top officials have been arrested in connection with the case in recent months, including former Prime Minister Temir Sariev, who is still in custody.

Another detained ex-prime minister, Omurbek Babanov, was released last month and allowed to travel abroad to receive medical treatment for an unspecified illness.

Deputy Prime Minister Taiyrbek Sarpashev was remanded in custody in the case.

Earlier this month, investigators questioned two former Kyrgyz presidents, Sooronbai Jeenbekov and Askar Akaev, in the high-profile case.

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