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Atambaev In Crosshairs As Bill To Strip Immunity Advances In Kyrgyzstan

Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev
Former Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would eliminate immunity for ex-presidents, potentially opening the path for the prosecution of former leader Almazbek Atambaev.

The parliamentary committee for legislation, state structures, and judicial issues approved the bill on November 27, meaning it is now likely to go to the full parliament for debate.

The committee's backing comes amid persistent tension between Atambaev, who heads the ruling Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan (SPDK), and his successor, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, a former ally.

Hours before the decision was announced, opposition groups and parties told reporters in Bishkek they want to hold Atambaev responsible for what they called "usurping power and betrayal of the April 2010 revolution's ideals."

That was a reference to the antigovernment protests that pushed President Kurmanbek Bakiev from power five years after this predecessor, Askar Akaev, was ousted in similar fashion.

Representatives of opposition parties and organizations said that they came to the conclusion that Atambaev -- the Central Asian country's president from 2011 to 2017 -- must face trial when they held a Kurultai (Congress) last week.

They said they will urge the Prosecutor-General's Office to launch an investigation focusing on Atambaev, who was elected after an interim period following Bakiev's ouster.

Emil Kaptagaev, a former governor of the northern Issyk-Kul region, said that Jeenbekov "has inherited a corrupt system of governance."

In October, Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Court ruled that the immunity enjoyed by the country's former presidents is unconstitutional.

Only two post-Soviet Kyrgyz leaders currently enjoy the official status of ex-presidents: Roza Otunbaeva, who was interim president in 2010-11; and Atambaev.

Akaev and Bakiev were stripped of the status when they fled Kyrgyzstan following their ousters.

Both have been sentenced in absentia to lengthy prison terms on charges including corruption and abuse of office.

In recent months, some politicians and lawmakers have called for an investigation into some of Atambaev's decisions while in office.

Several of his close allies have been arrested on suspicion of corruption this year.

Atambaev helped steer Jeenbekov, who had been his prime minister, into the presidency in an October 2017 election. But the two have have exchanged public accusations of unprofessionalism in recent months.

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