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Preliminary Hearings Begin Into Deadly Clashes At Kyrgyz Ex-President's Compound

Kyrgyz ex-President Almazbek Atambaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Preliminary closed-door hearings have begun into deadly clashes in and near former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev's compound last year in a Bishkek suburb.

Atambaev and 13 other defendants were present as the hearings kicked off on March 3 at the Birinchi Mai district court. Atambaev, however, was not present when the proceedings restarted on March 4, according to people at the hearings.

Last August, security officials were sent to Atambaev's compound in the settlement of Koi-Tash near Bishkek after he refused to obey three subpoenas calling him to the Interior Ministry for questioning in an investigation over his alleged involvement in the illegal release of a jailed organized-crime boss in 2013.

Atambaev was arrested on August 8 after he surrendered to police following a violent two-day resistance.

The resistance by the former president and his supporters resulted in the death of a 47-year-old security officer, Usenbek Niyazbekov, and injuries to more than 170 others, including 79 law enforcement officers.

The charges against Atambaev and his 13 co-defendants included murder, attempted murder, threatening or assaulting authorities' representatives, and hostage taking.

All 14 defendants pleaded not guilty and called the case against them politically motivated.

Five more defendants in the case made plea deals with investigators and will be tried separately.

The clashes underscored a power struggle between Atambaev and his handpicked successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, which raised fears of instability in the Central Asian nation.